The big pub and restaurant groups saw a 2.1% drop in like-for-like sales in the traditionally tough month of January.
But Peter Martin of Peach Factory said the figures from the monthly Coffer Peach Business Tracker were unlikely to disappoint the market too much, coming on the back of a bumper December.
The Coffer Peach Business Tracker follows the progress of 23 pub and restaurant companies every month including Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut, Whitbread, Gondola and Wagamama.
The market recorded collective like-for-likes up 9.9% in December on the same period last year, with total sales ahead 13.7%.
"Restaurant and pub operators are generally optimistic about prospects for their businesses this year. Despite all the economic difficulties of the past two years, the market has shown real resilience, with the public still willing to go out to eat and drink. Sales figures have been positive for the majority of that time," Martin said.
Richard Hathaway, KPMG's head of travel, leisure and tourism, said: "The January figures reveal a relatively slow start to 2012 and the likely impact of the current cold weather in the UK means February will probably not look very different. Trading conditions remain tough and they are likely to be with us for a while. However, given the tough economic environment, low consumer confidence and the continuing squeeze on disposable incomes, the growth that has been achieved over the past 18 months is remarkable and shows just how resilient the UK's eating and drinking out market is."
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, added: "January was a tough trading month for pub and restaurant operators, with many experiencing the hangover after a relatively strong Christmas period. Although consumer confidence is weak, the outlook does appear rosier and investors are aggressively looking to invest in the sector as an alternative to retail."
By Neil Gerrard
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