Sales in pubs saw a decline in January following a strong Christmas trading period, although this was driven by food rather than drink, according to the latest Coffer Peach tracker figures.
Like-for-like sales were down 1.8 per cent against the same month last year – although the impact of Dry January was minimal.
Trevor Watson, executive director at Davis Coffer Lyons, said that Dry January had little impact, with drinks sales only down 0.7 per cent compared to food falling 2.0 per cent in pubs – suggesting food growth was peaking as choice increases and the premiumisation of drinks was driving sales.
Pubs did better than restaurants during the month, the figures show, with sales down 1.4 per cent compared to 2.5 per cent for restaurants.The difference for trading for pubs in London was even starker, down only 0.5 per cent compared to 4.1 per cent for restaurants.
Overall trading for both sectors in London was also in line with the rest of the country – down 1.9 per cent to 1.7 per cent outside the M25.
Karl Chessell, director of CGA, said: “After strong trading over the festive season, which saw sector like-for-like sales 4.1 per cent up on 2017, operators will be disappointed that there has been no follow-through into January – even though the weather, and in particular the lack of snow early in the month, was better than last year.
But Karl said it was “worth remembering that January is always a relatively quiet month”.
“The first big test of the year for the market is the February half-term holidays,” he continued, “then Easter – although this year Brexit is bringing more anxiety for the industry.”
He also said restaurants were having “a tougher time than pubs, despite many closing underperforming sites in the last year” – and competition within the M25 had become intense.
RSM’s head of leisure and hospitality, Paul Newman said the impact of Veganuary on margins also had an effect.
He said: “Even if consumers went out to eat and drink in similar numbers, the increased uptake of Veganuary compared to last year reduced spend per head as diners opted for cheaper vegetable or plant-based dishes over meat options.”