A milder January than last year made for better trading across the country's leading managed pub and restaurant chains, according to new research.
Despite the start to any year being traditionally quiet after the hullabaloo of Christmas and New Year, January 2011 saw like-for-like sales across 18 major pub and restaurant businesses, including Punch Pub Company and Mitchells & Butlers, up 10.7 per cent.
While January 2010 was hit by bad weather, the double-digit recovery in 2011 more than made up for it, according to Peter Martin of research group the Peach Factory, part of the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which compiles the sales data.
"January is traditionally a slow trading period, and month-on-month sales were down 28.5 per cent on December," added Martin.
"However, we are comparing the four trading weeks of January with the five of December, so it is actually not a bad result at all."
Noting the January 2011 figures were against easier comparables, Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, another Business Tracker member, said sentiment amongst operators was "generally pretty robust after a better than expected start to the year for many".
"Many operators went into 2011 very cautiously and see some signs for optimism through the dark clouds," he added.
Jonathan Leinster, head of European leisure and tobacco research, at UBS Investment Bank, said that it appeared that the rise in VAT was a non-event for the eating-out sector.
"We believe that most operators increased food prices with their autumn menus, so only drinks prices would have appeared to customers to been affected by the VAT rise, " he added.