Pubs were the winners over the Easter weekend as the April heatwave saw punters packing out pub gardens.

Figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show that pub sales surged in the sunshine.

Pub and bar chains reported collective like-for-like sales up 5.3 per cent for the four-day break compared to Easter 2018, with drink-led pubs up 10.9 per cent as the public headed outdoors.

However, the overall eating and drinking-out market was actually down 3.6 per cent over the four-day weekend, as in stark contrast to pubs, restaurant chains saw collective like-for-like sales tumble a massive 18.6 per cent against last Easter's trading.

Karl Chessell is director of CGA, the firm that produces Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

He said: "You simply can't escape the fact that weather always has a major influence on the fortunes of the pub and restaurant sector – and what's good for pubs is rarely good for restaurants.

"These Easter figures just underline that reality.

"The Easter weekend last year, which fell in March rather than April, was good for trade overall, and particularly restaurants, as although the weather wasn't stunning, the holiday weekend came in the aftermath of the snow that accompanied the Beast from the East.

"There was plenty of pent up demand from people wanting to get out, which helped boost sales across the sector by almost 6 per cent against Easter 2017. So although this Easter may have been a bit of a disappointment overall, it was still better than two years ago."

There was better news for the month of April overall, helped by the fact that it contained the Easter period this year. Collective like-for-like sales for the combined managed pub, bar and restaurant sector were up 1.1 per cent on April last year. Pubs and bars were up 2.1 per cent, while restaurant groups reported like-for-like decline of 0.7 per cent.

Karl added: "Within the pub grouping, drink sales were ahead 2.7 per cent, with food up a more modest 0.8 per cent."

Mark Sheehan, managing director at Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: "It is no surprise that Britons sought out their local beer garden to escape the record temperatures over the Easter weekend.

"Whilst the weather and Brexit delay seem to have brought some short-term relief for the UK pub industry, the challenges affecting the casual dining sector show no such let up."

Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, added: "Fierce competition from new openings continue to hit top line growth whilst additional costs from increased minimum wage and pension contributions bite into margins. The eating and drinking out sector desperately needs a sustained run of positive sales growth just to stand still."

Regionally, London saw a fall in like-for-like trading, down 0.7 per cent on last April, while outside the M25 was up 1.7 per cent on a like-for-like basis for the month.

Looking at the underlying trends, however, London is still outperforming the rest of the country. Market like-for-likes overall were up 1.7 per cent for the 12 months to the end of April, with London running at 2.5 per cent ahead and outside the M25 up 1.5 per cent%.