Sales at Britain's restaurants and pubs were tempered in March by a later Easter, but London proved resilient as sales grew.
Like-for-like sales at Britain's restaurant and pub operators fell 0.5 per cent in March, according to figures in the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker, as the profitable four-day Easter weekend falls in April this year.
Restaurant chains across the UK reported like-for-like sales fell 1.4 per cent, while trading in pub groups was flat compared with the same month the previous year.
"Easter can usually be relied on to provide a significant boost to the eating and drinking out market, but with it falling in April this year, a month later than last time, it has skewed March trading figures," said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the tracker.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at consultancy RSM, added the slight decrease in like-for-like sales will be seen as a positive by many as the changing date of Easter makes the figures tricky to assess.
"This is especially good news when compared to the larger fall in overall retail sales for the same period."
However, like-for-like sales in London grew 2.9 per cent last month without the help of a holiday, driven by strong sales in pubs and bars.
"Consumer spending in the UK remains firm, with London benefiting most from the weaker exchange rate which is under-pinning overseas visitor and staycation spending," said Trevor Watson, executive director at Davis Coffer Lyons.
Outside the M25, like-for-like sales dropped 1.7 per cent.
For the 12 months to the end of March, however, the underlying annual sales trend shows sector like-for-like sales just 0.8 per cent ahead.
Total sales growth in March among the tracker's 34 companies was up 2.1 per cent, reflecting the impact of new openings over the year, the report said.
Martin said: “With growing cost pressures on the sector from business rates, food price inflation and wage increases, the fact that consumer spending on out-of-home food and drink appears at least to be holding up will be some relief for operators."
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