Welcome to the first of a new feature series, Trade Tracker, which takes a look at sector trading over the previous seven days. From a list of 40 businesses in the eating and drinking out sector, 10 will give a snapshot of trading each week.
Trade Tracker is supported by Torex, supplier of customer and business insight.
As the schools begin to break up for the long summer vacation, the mood is positive among the majority of eating and drinking-out businesses across the UK. But stark variations are still evident, with unsettled weather and a tighter hold on the purse strings producing a challenging trading environment for some. Here’s what 10 leading operators told M&C Report:
Regional variations were evident in 3Sixty’s trading roundup this week. CEO James Horler said like-for-likes were positive in London, up 4%, flat in the Midlands at 0% and negative in the north west, down 3%. Conditions were tough for sites in Warrington, Liverpool and Lytham, but overall results were as expected. Year-on-year spending patterns, outside of London, were revealing a trend that showed consumers spending was down in the early part of the week, but holding up well later in the week and at weekends.
Charles Wells Pub Company
For Charles Wells, despite four big sites being closed for redevelopment, the pub business was performing well with 40-43% of the 250-strong pub estate in growth, when compared with the same period last year, and with 30% of pubs experiencing double-digit growth. Sales and marketing director Peter Wells noted that trends for the current economic climate were developing, with trade noticeably dropping off the week before school holidays, with families obviously saving their cash in preparation for extra expenditure to come.
Like-for-lies were up an average of 4% across Tampopo, the East Asia restaurant chain. Sites in central Manchester saw likes-for-likes up 5-6% as they benefited from the closing days of the Manchester International Festival. Managing director David Fox said the current economic climate caused customers to be cautious and more careful with their money, which in turn created a degree of volatility for the business, and made it a challenging environment for planning. “Put simply”, he said, “you don’t know what’s coming next.”
Le Bistro Pierre
It’s been a very strong week for the bistro chain. Good weather, graduations, and diner offers have produced good figures for the restaurants, and overall, year-on-year trading figures were “slightly up”. With sites situated in the Midlands and the north, CEO Robert Beacham said the recent cooler weather had been working in the company’s favour, and it was evident that its latest free bottle of rose wine offer, was reaping good results, with the bottom line showing stronger results than the last two years. “Overall, I’d describe trade as reasonably buoyant,” concluded Beacham.
The bar and grill chain was pleased to report that figures were substantially ahead of the same week last year, with growth over and above this year’s budgets. Managing director John Gater said: “We are producing amazing results at the moment, which as the founder of the business, is very satisfying.” Gater attributed much of the success to the company’s good food credentials, the start of the school holidays, university graduations and good cinema: ie, the arrival of the latest Harry Potter blockbuster. Coal sites are town/city centre located near “leisure connections”. Gater added that this year’s budgets had been set with challenging year-on-year increases, but so far results had outperformed every month’s figures.
Chris Holmes, managing director of the 32-strong pub group Tynemill, operating in the East Midlands and into Yorkshire, was extremely positive, with likes-for-likes in terms of turnover up 3% (ex VAT). Overall for the whole estate, volumes were running about the same as last year - there had been some price increases, but these had been kept “reasonable” across the estate. In the main, Tynemill had benefited from the better weather but Holmes added that while trade was up, there wasn’t one obvious reason for the increase, concluding that a combination of better weather, random sporting events and reasonable prices had been good for business.
New Pub Company
Like-for-likes were up 5% for the New Pub Company, which the seven-strong pub operator said was down to it benefiting from the “resilient and perky” trading conditions in London. The Griffin in Whetstone, N20, had an outstanding week, taking £26,000, compared to £22,000 for the same week last year. The combination of better weather and it being ‘pay day’ for many Londoners contributed to the good week. But more than that, managing director Peter Linacre attributed the success to London’s great consumer confidence and willingness to spend. “The hotels are full, there are lots of tourists about and everyone is starting to talk about the Olympics.”
Last weekend’s improved weather saw like-for-likes returning to last year’s figures, following a slow start to the summer, with sales figures down due to the unseasonably poor weather. The weekend saw the opening of the company’s fifth site, the Catherine Wheel in Albury, Hertfordshire, which took more than £10,000 over two evenings and two days. TLC Inns described current trading conditions as like a game of “catch up”, but described its three super sites as trading solidly. TLC Inns founder Steve Haslam said while numbers were strong in the larger sites, all the pubs would benefit from more consistent summer weather and the start of the school holidays, which would be expected to doubled trade sales.
The eight-strong central London-based gastropub operator reports like-for-likes up 3-4% across the group, with trading strong throughout. Hannah Bass, operations director for ETM Group, mentioned the Gun, the White Swan and the Cadogan Arms as benefitting from corporate events, with the White Swan holding four to five events per day. The new Chiswell Street venue, open for five weeks, had experienced a “brilliant start”.
Unseasonably poor weather has been hitting sales for the Kurnia Group, with sites on the Lincolnshire coast waiting for the arrival of holidaymakers and better weather to boost sales. Last week saw sales figures up 20% on the previous week, but year-on-year sales were 13% down. Wet sales have been particularly hit, but food sales have been holding up against last year’s figures.