M&C Report’s Trade Tracker, which is supported by Torex, supplier of customer and business insight, 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 give a snapshot of trading each week. It was a case of back to reality with a bump for many operators last week, with a few marked exceptions in the restaurant trade, after the record-breaking previous week where the sun shone and the customers spent. While like-for-likes were flat for many last week, pub operators and those with outside space agreed that the unexpected late Indian summer had given September and October a welcome shot in the arm. Here’s what 10 different companies told M&C Report: 3Sixty Restaurants “We had a good week the week before last, and paid for it last week,” said James Horler, CEO of 3Sixty Restaurants with sites in London, the Midlands and the north. “The first week of October was positive across the board, thanks to the sunshine and it being the end of the month. Last week, we saw positives in London and the Midlands, but were negative in the north west, which has pretty much been our trading pattern for a while.” The sunny week saw like-for-likes up 6%, while like-for-likes for the group were down 3% for last week, with London bucking the trend and trading positively, up 9% on like-for-likes. “Thursday and Friday last week were cooler, but dry in London and we did well in our outside areas,” explained Horler. “The bad news for us is the announcement of the 3,000 BAE redundancies, which will hit the north. Our restaurant in Lytham St Annes is just five miles from BAE Systems in Warton. When London gets hit by redundancies, people are somehow absorbed back into the London system, but it’s hard to see where there will be opportunities for people around there,” said Horler. TLC Inns Bouncing back to normality, was how Steve Haslam, founder of TLC Inns described last week, with like-for-likes up 3%, compared to being 55% up the previous week across the group. “Two of our village sites saw 100% growth, with the Cutter Inn in Ely seeing its biggest ever Saturday. Overall it was our second busiest week of the year. We were very, very pleased and it meant September ended ahead of budget and we’re already ahead of budget for October. After an unpredictable summer, it’s given us some stability back and evened the books out,” said Haslam. However, Haslam fears such a big week will double compound the autumn/winter effect. “Over the next couple of weeks, I expect a slowdown, unless the weather comes back. If the press keep talking negatively double dip recession, it will double the impact and slowdown in the run-up to Christmas.” Tossed High street trade remains strong for Tossed, the food bar operator with nine sites across London, with like-for-likes just into double-digit growth for last week. Shopping centres have slowed down, with the trading at the newly opened Westfield Stratford City performing strongly at the weekends, but being “pretty quiet” Monday to Friday. “It’s not the same at Westfield London, where there are a lot of offices in Shepherd’s Bush, and with the BBC right opposite, creating a decent amount of Monday to Friday traffic,” said company chief Vincent McKevitt. Last Monday (3 October) produced the chain’s busiest-ever hour, 12-1pm, which was exceptionally good for October – such records are more usually broken in the summer months or Christmas, added McKevitt. This week sees the launch of Tossed’s “Hot and Healthy” meal options, bringing customers hot rice or pasta-based dishes with a selection of seven/eight hot toppings – all under 500 calories and under £5. Kurnia Last week’s (Friday 30 September to Thursday 6 October) like-for-likes were up 48% for Kurnia, the Lincolnshire-based pub group. “It was a phenomenal week, the best week ever year-on-year, even outstripping the August bank holiday,” said managing director Michael Kheng. “People saw it as the last bit of sunshine and decided to make the most of it. Our local supermarkets had sold out of sausages and burgers.” The group had been running, on average, at 7-8% down on like-for-likes, and last weekend (part of the current week’s trading), took a “dive” with like-for-likes down 20%. “There was a lot of rain last Friday,” explained Kheng, adding that on average the group was trading at between 7% and 8% down on like-for-likes. Pesto A good week for Pesto, the Italian restaurant and bar operator, with like-for-likes up 3.5%. “Our business benefits in strange ways from the weather,” said Neil Gatt, managing director. “The sunny weather benefits Liverpool and Manchester, but the Trafford Centre gets the benefit from bad weather. It’s the best of both worlds for us.” Last month, Pesto was still experiencing slow trade after the riots in Liverpool and Manchester, however, party bookings have started to return at venues in both cities over the couple of weeks. Pesto’s new site in Glasgow was experiencing steady growth. Gatt added that while there were no immediate plans for further Pesto openings, he was working on new projects, one of which was to open a large (15,000 sq ft) urban spa and gym in Manchester city centre. Inn Brighton A flat week for InnBrighton, the 43-strong pub and club operator in Brighton and Hove. This followed on from a 43% like-for-like increase the previous week, a week that had reaped the benefits of the fantastic weather, lots of Fresher week activity and three home matches at Brighton & Hove Albion. “Last week wasn’t too bad,” said boss Gavin George. “On the seafront we’re very weather driven, but we did alright up in the city, so it balances out for us. The nighttime trade has been okay for us too. We’re running activities for the students that keeps them coming back to our late night places.” George added that last week’s potential trade had been impacted by Brighton not playing at home. Butcombe Brewery A quiet week in the pubs for this West Country brewer and pub operator. “We were trading level with the same week last year, which was and remains flat. It’s not great, but it’s just been a quiet week in the pubs. The brewery, however, has had a stonking week,” said managing director Guy Newell. “Real ale and cider are two sexy categories at the moment, and we are in both. Geographically it’s not too bad for us either, with Bristol, Bath and the West Country not doing as badly as some other places.” Last week’s “flat” results, followed a 20% increase in like-for-likes for the previous “phenomenal week”. “There will have been an impact for people who are a bit short of cash, after having a blow-out during the Indian summer, it’s not surprising that our freetrade customers and estate were affected in the following week.” Newell added that Butcombe was investing money to update pubs. “We see it as a good time to be getting our act together and investing in our business.” Le Bistro Pierre Generally trade at Le Bistro Pierre, the nine-strong French restaurant operator with venues in the Midlands and the north, has been flat, although sites in Stratford and Leamington Spa were trading well. Elsewhere Derby was down, Nottingham and Leicester were flat, while Sheffield remained “tough”, explained CEO Robert Beacham, adding that the company overall didn’t see the boosts experienced by other business in the previous, sunny week. “French food is quite serious, not something for balmy October nights.” New menus were being launched this week. Lunchtime and pre-theatre offers were being retained, but prices for a la carte dining were increasing. “Margins are being squeezed on food and we need to see a 3% price rise to cover costs or see shrinking margins,” said Beacham, concluding that while things were tough, he wasn’t unhappy with how the business was operating in the current economic and market conditions. Peach No surprises at Peach, said co-founder Lee Cash commenting on last week’s “negative” trade, following the “fantastic” hot week’s trade. “Like-for-likes for September finished positive for us, up in single digits thanks to that absolutely cracking week”, said Cash, who a month ago was unsure of September’s outlook after a tougher than expected August. With sites spread from Leicester down to Cranleigh in Surrey, Peach’s Cash said October looked slightly “more gloomy” now. “We’ll just have to work harder.” On the whole, bar trade was slightly up against food, with customers perhaps eating at home before going out for a drink, Cash added. Later this month (24 October) sees the opening of Peach’s 15th venue, the company’s second Enterprise-leased site in Brookman’s Park, south Hertfordshire, called the Brookmans. TGI Friday’s Last week was an exceptional week for TGI Friday’s, where its recently opened London Stratford venue took £123,000 net last week. “We are having a great run at the moment and feeling very optimistic about the final quarter,” said managing director Karen Forrester. “The big unknown for us is the weather and if the snow hits in December, then that’s a disaster. But it seems that the more talk of gloom there is, the more people come into us to forget it!” The exceptionally sunny week affected sales: “We were hit on the sunny weekend – the sun is terrible for us anytime – and we were negative for a couple of days. But we’ve bounced back and saw record sales for the weekend just gone.” On pricing, Forrester explained that the food prices would have to be increased by 1%, but not until next year. “At TGI we tend not to overtly push prices, but get price movement by the ‘premiumisation’ of certain categories, like burgers and ribs, which allows our guests to trade up and into those categories. We’ve seen an increase in spend per head.”