London's drinking hotspots outdid the rest of the UK in May

Francesca Washtell
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Ahead of the annual summer drinking boom London's pubs and bars were buoyed in May, as sales at the capital's drinking holes outpaced the rest of the country.

Like-for-like sales at pubs and bars in London were up 3.8 per cent, while the pub and restaurant sector as a whole grew by 0.9 per cent.

"With a world-class public transport infrastructure getting them home in the evenings, Londoners find the decision to stay out after work for a meal and a craft beer or cocktail a much easier one to make than workers in other UK regions," Adam Spencer, associate director of M&A and private equity at RSM, told City A.M.

"Along with an ever-growing number of bar and restaurant options and higher disposable incomes than in the rest of the UK, London's bar and restaurant sector has unsurprisingly outperformed."

In the rest of the country, same-store sales in the pub and bar trade were down 2.2 per cent, although this was an improvement on April's figures, when an early Easter and cold weather drove sales down 2.7 per cent.

Collective like-for-like trading in the combined pub and restaurant sector across the UK was down 1.4 per cent, according to May figures released today by the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, compiled by Coffer Group, CGA Peach, RSM and UBS.

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The monthly sales data, which polls figures from 31 leading leisure groups including Pizza Hut, Cafe Rouge owner Casual Dining Group, Fuller's, Strada and Young's, found that the casual dining sector had suffered the most over the month.

"The later school half-term break, which this year fell in June against May last year, appears to have been a major factor – demonstrating how important the family market still is to the sector," said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach.

"Overall, casual dining chains suffered most, with collective like-for-likes down a hefty 5.6 per cent on last May, while pub groups actually saw a one per cent increase in same store sales for the month, driven mainly by drink-led outlets which were up 4.5 per cent.

"It was definitely a tale of two markets last month," added Martin.

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Total sales for the month among the 31 companies tracked were up 2.2 per cent on 2015, reflecting the fact that groups are still opening new sites, if at a slower rate than previously.

"The distortion caused by the school holiday shift will work its way out next month, and operators will be encouraged by early indications of bumper sales in the first week of June, which also enjoyed good weather," said Martin.

However, Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said the pub and restaurant sector had been dealt an "undeniable blow" by declining consumer confidence over the course of this year.

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"For the most part, this has stemmed from general economic fears that have been worsened by the impending EU Referendum next week," Sheehan said.

"With each of the home nations represented in Euro 2016, excepting Scotland, we hope to see an upturn in next month’s data, but overall, restaurant operators are undeniably struggling while pub companies are experiencing strong like-for-like growth."

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