News

November 25, 2011 - Anonymous

Pubs and restaurants thriving despite tough conditions

Sales in restaurant and pubs increased last month despite the weak economy, research by business intelligence firm Peach Factory has highlighted.

Trade among restaurant and pub groups was up by 0.9 per cent in October, compared with the same period in 2010, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors monthly hospitality performance. Total sales, which include the effect of new openings, were also up by 5.1 per cent.

In contrast, retail sales fell during October, the British Retail Consortium said, reflecting low consumer confidence.

“People may be reluctant to go out and buy more stuff, but they are still willing to go out to eat and drink,” said Peach chief executive Peter Martin. “Quality is still the main factor in choosing where to go out, but value is becoming increasingly important. With the cost of eating in and eating out narrowing in many parts of the market, it remains an attractive proposition.”

However, consumers were increasingly turning to brands “which offered quality, value and consistency”, Martin added, meaning that small independent restaurants and pubs could find it harder to compete with bigger chains.

Miles Quest, spokesman for the British Hospitality Association said that heavy discounting such as 2-for-1 meals among branded chains was encouraging footfall, even in a sluggish economy, but independents “lacked the marketing clout” to attract more customers.

“But it’s not all bleak news for smaller operators,” he said. “As long as a restaurant or bar is giving good food and good service – at a good price – they should survive.”

Stephen Simpson, owner of Brighton based bars Oh So Social and the Brighton Music Hall, said trading conditions remained tough in the current climate. “The past two years have been a real challenge, largely because we’ve seen a marked shift away from weeknight drinking,” he said. “Customers are much more cost-conscious these days.

“People now tend to enjoy one big weekend evening out rather than come in after work,” he added. “And spending levels are also down on what they were.”

Promotions, discounting and loyalty deals were vital to keep customers loyal, said Simpson. “We’ve introduced a loyalty card and birthday ‘treats’ for local residents, we do special themed evenings and live music nights and we also hire out the premises for product launches and events – it’s a question of maximising the business from every angle.”