Independent pubs feel the squeeze

By Ewan Turney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Whitbread, Coffer peach business

Chains like Yates's are performing steadily
Chains like Yates's are performing steadily
Tenants, lessees and freeholders are the ones feeling the pinch as managed pubs and restaurants continue a steady increase in sales. Like-for-like...

Tenants, lessees and freeholders are the ones feeling the pinch as managed pubs and restaurants continue a steady increase in sales.

Like-for-like sales across 13 major managed pub and restaurant chains increased 0.8% in August on last year, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.

The latest rise follows a 1% like-for-like gain in July, 0.4% in June and 0.6% in May. August also saw a 3.7% increase in month-on-month sales against July.

"The big guns are also continuing to grow their collective market share at the expense of the competition," said Peach Factory's Peter Martin.

"In the context of a generally accepted flat or slightly depressed pub and restaurant market, total sales for the companies that make up the Business Tracker sample were ahead 4.9% in August against the same month last year, following a 4.6% increase in July.

"The implication is that smaller and independent operators are the ones most feeling the spending pinch."

Jonathan Leinster, head of European leisure and tobacco research, at UBS Investment Bank, added: "The stronger summer LFL sales are encouraging, but it will be interesting to see whether this is sustained into the winter period, since the impact of more families staying in the UK for the summer period could have a considerable impact on LFL sales.

"The expansion of the chain groups is despite balance sheet constraints and indicates that, as with pub closures, there are more severe problems in the independent sector."

However, head of travel, leisure and tourism at KPMG Richard Hathaway warned managed chains still face challenges. "The promotional strategies of the major restaurant operators continue to be effective in delivering growth but when the recession finally ends, and this may unfortunately be a while off yet, the hard work of raising margins back up to pre-credit crunch levels will have to begin in earnest."


Property agent David Coffer of the Coffer Group said that there was a chink of light in terms of acquisitions.

"There is a definitive increase in demand and an acceleration in transactions being completed, as well as a sea change in bank attitude to providing debt," he said.

"As far as expansion is concerned, there is still an abundance of over-rented old stock overhanging the market place but most operators are peeking out of their 'cave' as the storm passes.

"Their heaviest reservations are still in connection with likely levels of unemployment, tax hikes and the attitude of a subdued and cautious general public in 2010."

Companies participating in Peach Business Tracker include Mitchells & Butlers, JD Wetherspoon, Whitbread Restaurants (including Beefeater, Brewers Fayre and Table Table), Punch Pub Company (Spirit Group), Gondola (owner of Pizza Express, Zizzi and ASK), Bay Restaurants (operator of Slug & Lettuce, La Tasca and Ha! Ha!), Town & City Pubs (owner of Yates's), Tragus Group (operator of Bella Italia, Strada and Café Rouge), Barracuda Group (including Smith & Jones and Varsity), Wagamama and Carluccio's.

Related topics: Other operators

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