The figures showed January like-for-like sales across the tracker up 1.4% - the 22nd consecutive month of growth.
Restaurants once again did better than pubs with a 4.1% and 0.2% rise respectively.
“Trading in the early part of the month suggested that January might have finished down on the same month last year, but a late surge in business saw the sector remain in positive growth,” said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS.
“Perhaps it was down to the pay-day effect or just people tiring of ‘dry’ January, but the sector and in particular restaurants saw the benefit,” he added.
“The bad weather obviously had an impact, with sales only just ahead of last January, but the positive sales momentum remains there.
“It’s clear that eating-out is now engrained in the British way-of-life, and among the pub groups in our sample, food sales outstripped drink in January – up 2.8% against a 1.2% fall in drinks sales.”
Total sales, which include the impact of new openings, were up 5.8% against last January across the 30 restaurant, bar and pub companies in the Tracker sample. Trading in London was only marginally ahead of the rest of the country during January, up 1.8% against 1.3% outside the M25.
David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: “These figures reflect the continuing demand for drink-led venues to include a substantial food offer and that these are becoming more sophisticated with increasingly interesting food and also drinks menus.
The quality of product now available across a wide range of operations, especially in central London, and to an ever greater extent outside of London, is galvanising the public’s interest in one-stop venues. We believe this will continue until ultimately there will be a virtually comprehensive merge of both.
“Demand for premises both in the capital and in important suburban and provincial centres is at an unprecedented level – the highest in our 50 years involvement in the market”, he added.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, added: “Almost two years of consecutive like-for-like growth for the UK eating and drinking out market continues to highlight growing consumer confidence. Total annual sales growth of 5.8%, more than double recently published GDP figures, indicates the success of the sector in attracting a greater share of disposable income. With an ever-growing number and breadth of concepts to choose from, it is no surprise that a significant proportion of each additional pound in earnings will be spent in them.
Jarrod Castle, leisure analyst at UBS Investment Research, said: “Sales growth for January was a deceleration from December and November, but this still leaves the 12-month moving average like-for-like growth rate at 2.1%. The 12-month moving average inside the M25 is 3.1%, while outside it is 1.7%.”