May proved a strong month for most pub and restaurant groups, with a total increase of 2.6% in sales, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
But the rainy weather played a big role in influencing the public's decisions of where to go out, which meant that some parts of the sector did not enjoy such a strong recovery after a gloomy April, which saw like-for-like sales fall 2%.
The tracker follows 24 leading companies every month. Participants include Mitchells & Butlers, Pizza Hut, Whitbread and Tragus.
"Pubs and pub-restaurants were the best performers, and particularly those inside the M25," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the business intelligence specialist that produces the sector Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group and UBS.
"The hotter weather at the end of May was a help for them after a cool start," he added. "High-street casual-dining chains generally had a tougher month, and especially in London, where competition is fiercest.
"The annualised like-for-like sales growth rate for the leading groups is currently running at around 2%. New site openings are pushing up total sales by more than that, but that is also increasing competitive pressures, as consumers increase the number of brands they use as they shop around for better value, better quality and better experiences. Competition between brands and companies is becoming much more intense," he said.
"We are also beginning to see the effects of casual-dining chains trying to cut back on voucher activity.
"Overall, the market remains volatile, like the weather, with see-sawing performances. April was down, although March was up, but that followed a very shaky start to 2012 in January and February."
David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: "These are very encouraging results. The only surprise is the level of progress being made on year-on-year like-for-likes. The big question is whether this growth will be sustained in the face of any significant developments in the eurozone crisis. Further complications to the market will be the impact of the Olympics, where the jury is out as to whether it will be positive or a big turn-off for the food and beverage market."
Jonathan Leinster, head of UBS European Leisure Research, said: "Chain pubs continue to invest in new locations. This implies operators continue to believe the returns are more than acceptable despite the cost pressures and low like-for-like sales growth. Further opening can only lead to intensifying competition, with high-street dining under more pressure than pub-restaurants.
"June should see the benefits from the additional Jubilee holiday and Euro 2012. However, the weather has been unusually poor and the comparative period was strong - and therefore it is not as clear-cut as it should have been. To date the listed pub-restaurant operators have generally seen like-for-likes at a higher rate than the average for the tracker, perhaps a reflection of their value offering."
By Neil Gerrard
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