The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker today (19 January) revealed that pub, bar and restaurant groups across the UK saw like-for-like sales decline by 0.1% over the six-week Christmas and New Year period.

In a repeat of last year’s festive trading, the six weeks to 7 January 2018 saw drink-led businesses profit the most, while restaurant chains suffered a collective like-for-like decline of -1%.

CGA vice president Peter Martin explained: “The public still went out to eat and drink, but essentially it was a repeat of last Christmas. Better trading in the second half of the festive season, when people were mainly off work, failed to provide enough of a boost to beat 2016’s overall number though.”

“People were more willing to go out to drink than eat this festive season, with drink-led pubs and bars having the best of trading. Across the managed pub market, drink sales were up 1.8%, while food was down 1.4%. Food-led operations, both pubs and restaurants, generally had a worse Christmas than 2016.”

The tracker, produced in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM, also found that London venues were hit harder than those outside of the M25, and saw an even greater contrast in casual dining (-2.6%) and pub (+1.5%) sales.

Martin added: “Looking across the six week period, the run-up to the holidays saw generally poor trading, with the snow in particular hitting sales. Trading picked up in the last three weeks either side of the core holidays. Every year, the Christmas period seems to be coming more concentrated.

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“Although the sector will be disappointed it didn’t beat 2016’s numbers, the results do reflect the flat trading that we’ve seen in the market over the past year – and they also come on the back of increases for the past two Christmases.”

Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: “Despite very negative press particularly associated with restaurant sector trading, the eating and drinking out market is not in free fall. Trading over the important December trading period was flat, with pubs trading better than restaurants.

“There is no question that the trading environment is competitive but these numbers are not the car crash that has been widely portrayed. 2018 will be a challenging year and we expect to see bars and pubs trading more robustly than restaurants.”