Don’t write-off casual dining just yet

Is the branded restaurant market showing signs of recovery, or at least stability? Latest data from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker suggests it might be, writes Peter Martin.

The summer is never a great time for the casual dining business, especially when there’s hot weather and major sports events. That’s when the public tends to head down to the pub.

The past four months have been no exception, with fluctuations in the relative sales performances of managed pub and restaurant groups largely mirroring the weather. Casual dining did well in June and July, with pubs prospering in August and September.

But dig beneath the monthly numbers and the underlying longer-term trend suggests that restaurant groups are now actually out-performing their managed pub group competitors in the Tracker cohort.


Like-for-like growth for the managed pub and restaurant sector as a whole was running at 1.9% up for the 12 months period to the end of September, but with restaurant groups collectively recording a 2.4% like-for-like increase compared to 1.6% for pub and bar groups combined.

The effect of CVAs and site closures and the cutting back of extensive brand roll-outs has seen overall site numbers stabilise. It also appears that the restaurant sites remaining are now doing better too. By definition they were the better ones anyway, but they may also be benefitting from companies shifting attention to refreshing existing locations rather than searching for new openings.

Managed pubs haven’t suffered the upheaval the casual dining has experienced and are still collectively seeing like-for-like sales growth. When the sun shines drink-led pubs have done well, with increased drink sales the main driver. But the Tracker numbers also show that in wet months, food in pubs tends to do better, and across the managed pub market, food sales still account for an average of 39% of sales, and even 23% in what would be described as wet-led estates.

The British public hasn’t given up on eating out – in restaurants or pubs.

The Coffer Peach Tracker is produced by CGA, the business insight consultancy, in partnership with Coffer Group and RSM.

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