Pub and restaurant groups in the UK  have benefited from the sunny weather in March, with collective like-for-like sales up by 3.8% compared with the same month last year when trading was down due to the ‘beast from the east’ cold snap.

Figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker show London saw like-for-like sales up by 5.5% this March with the rest of the country seeing a 3.3% increase. Managed pubs collectively were up by 4% while restaurant groups saw a 3.6% growth.

Pubs saw their collective like-for-like sales increase in both food and drink; drinks trade grew by 5.7% and food sales grew by 2.7% compared with the same month in 2018.

Business advisory firm RSM senior manager Saxon Moseley said: “With flowers blooming and the onset of British summertime, managed pub and restaurant groups bounced back this March with strong like for like performance unhindered by the poor weather conditions of last year’s ‘Beast from the East’.

“With the later Easter break in 2019 and the possibility of progress on Brexit, there is cautious optimism that April will see a loosening of consumer purse strings and further good news for the sector.”

Davis Coffer Lyons executive director – valuations, Trevor Watson said: “These results show that revenue levels across the sector returned to March 2017 levels last month. The market remains challenging for many casual dining operators who continue to face unprecedented levels of competition.

“The wide variety of choice including the popularity of food halls, markets and pop-up street food offers around the country continues to draw custom away from conventional restaurant and pub outlets and are increasingly the social meeting place of choice for younger consumers.”

Business insight consultancy CGA director Karl Chessell said: “March last year was a month to forget when snow brought much of the country to a standstill. Both pubs and restaurants felt the effects with like-for-like across the board down 3.1%, so these latest figures will be a relief as the sector regains lost ground.

“The big test, of course, will come with the results for April and the Easter holidays. Last Easter was a bumper time for the sector with sales ahead of 5.9% on the holiday weekend the year before, boosted by the fact that many people didn’t go out in March.”