The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker found while the retail sector struggled, Britain’s managed pub and restaurant companies had cause to celebrate.
However, pubs saw more of a rise across Christmas and new year with the rise of just over 5% against a 2.4% increase for restaurants.
Drink sales were the major driver of growth in pubs over the six-week Christmas and new year period, up 6.4% on last year compared with a 3.6% increase in food sales.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, which produces the tracker in partnership with The Coffer Group and RSM, said: “Premiumisation will be a big part of that, and trading-up appears to have helped restaurants too, as the number of covers served increased by 1.3% from last year.
“What will be most encouraging for these pub and restaurant groups is trading was positive throughout December, following a 1.5% sales uplift in November.”
London benefited more than the rest of Britain with like-for-like sales over the six weeks to 6 January up 5% compared to 3.8% outside of the M25.
Chessell said: “This is all in stark contrast to the gloom hanging over retail that, according to the British Retail Consortium, suffered its worst Christmas for a decade with zero sales growth.
“What these figures suggest is consumers are being more selective about where they spend their money and are looking for memorable experiences – like going out for a meal or drive with family or friends over Christmas – rather than just buying things.”
People headed out to pubs and restaurants to get away from politics, according to Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan.
He said: “The fact is the eating and drinking-out sectors had an excellent trading period in their busiest time of the year.
“Consumers escaped the political turmoil and headed for pubs and restaurants to escape the tedium.
“Pre-booked sales in particular were strong and the months ahead and are going to be tough but at this crucial time, trading was robust.”
While the festive period was great for pubs and restaurants, operators need to be cautious when cutting prices this month (January), RSM head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman said.
He added: “This is a strong result for the sector with pubs and restaurants benefiting, driven in part by helpful weather comparatives and an extended holiday period for many families.
“That said, discounting is already picking up and we won’t know until later in the year if increased sales have converted to profit.
“This conversion level will be crucial for operators who continue to face rising costs and more cautious consumer spending.”