Sector like-for-likes up 0.3% in February but restaurants continue to struggle: Britain’s managed pub and restaurant groups saw collective like-for-like sales increase 0.3% in February compared with last year, with pubs trading strongly but restaurants moving backwards, according to the latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker. While managed pub groups enjoyed a 1.4% increase in collective like-for-like sales, restaurant groups saw a decline of 1.7%. Wet-led pubs were the strongest performers with London also outperforming the rest of Britain, the figures revealed. London saw overall like-for-like sales growth of 1.0% during the month, compared with only 0.1% outside the M25. There was a big difference between the performance of managed pubs and chain restaurants in the capital, with pubs up 3.0% against a more significant 2.2% sales decline for restaurants. The difference in performance was less stark outside the M25, with pub like-for-likes up 0.9% and restaurants down 1.2%. “The mini-heatwave towards the end of the month boosted pub trading and also helped restaurant sales as people enjoyed the unseasonal sunshine, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to move the whole market much,” said Karl Chessell, director of CGA, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM. “The branded restaurant sector is still suffering from declining sales and, despite a better end to the month, early February was generally poor for restaurants. While people will remember the sun, it was cold at the start of the month and school half-term holidays appear to have given no more of a boost to sales than they did last year. Even within the managed pub market, food sales are under pressure. The trading uplift in February has essentially come from increased drink sales, which were up 3.5% against a 0.9% fall in food.” Coffer Corporate Leisure managing director Mark Sheehan added: “There is no quick fix for the restaurant sector. Oversupply in some areas will mean we may continue to see negative numbers for the foreseeable future, especially within the M25 where competition is fiercest.” Total sales across the 51 companies in the Tracker, which includes the effect of net new openings coming onstream since this time last year, were ahead 2.7%. Underlying like-for-like growth for the Tracker cohort, which includes large and small groups, was running at 0.9% for the 12 months to the end of February.