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. Heading towards the end of October and businesses found last week quiet, but not unexpectedly so, especially as it was (in the main) the week before half-term. There were still pockets of growth around the country, and many operators have taken heart from what looks like being a better than predicted October. Here’s what 10 different companies told M&C Report: Tampopo October has been a good month for the East Asia restaurant chain, following on from a positive September. Like-for-likes across the operation were up 4%. Manchester, with three sites, performed the strongest, up 10%, despite one site being hit by the three-year closure of the Town Hall, library and theatre. Trafford Centre, despite footfall for last week being down 6%, was trading up 16% like-for-likes, which was particularly positive news for managing director David Fox, as August and September had been affected by three competitor venues opening nearby. “The rise this month demonstrates that our customers are coming back to us,” said Fox. Two weeks ago Tampopo was awarded the Trafford Centre’s Restaurant of the Year title, an accolade that is decided by customer votes. “Usually one of the big brand operators gets it, so it was really nice for us, an independent, to have won it this year,” said Fox. Leeds, a “tough market”, was down 8%, Bristol was up 2% and Reading – which will be going into like-for-likes next month on its first anniversary – was said to be trading steadily in an “off-pitch” area of the Oracle and was expected to benefit from the opening of a Browns next door. Barburrito This Mexican restaurant operator continues to trade well, with business running 15-20% up on last year. Spend per head has risen year-on-year, thanks to upselling. Drinks sales, as a proportion of the business, were up too. Deansgate, Manchester, broke its sales and weekly targets on the last two consecutive Saturdays, and Leeds broke its targets the previous Saturday too. “We are a new brand in a new category and word-of-mouth recommendations are our key marketing vehicle,” said managing director Morgan Davies, adding that the only location where the business “wasn’t flying” was the Trafford Centre, which he attributed to flat footfall. “I expect that to change this week, with it being the school holidays,” Davies added. All Our Bars Fluctuations and the current unpredictability in trade continued to be a cause for concern for Paul Wigham, the founder of All Our Bars, which operates 17 pubs in the south east of England. Last week like-for-likes were on target, slightly down (1%) on budget. Commenting on recent performance, Wigham explained that September, despite experiencing the company’s “worse ever week” (week two), had ended up slightly ahead on like-for-likes, but October remained static on like-for-likes, but down against budget. “Trade has not be at all predictable, which is difficult,” said Wigham, adding that the rugby had ended up costing the company money, as sites had opened early in the morning to televise games, but “hadn’t delivered” the hoped for increase in trade. Coal Sales continue to meet budgets, and with half-term holidays this week, and in some areas last week, managing director John Gater is confident that October will exceed budgets. “Year-on-year, month-on-month we are seeing 3% growth,” said Gater. Increased food prices has resulted in the bar and grill restaurant chain adjusting its menu to provide a “cushion on the a la carte” offering, said Gater, explaining that premium priced foods like steak and sea bass have been replaced with “creative and attractive” alternatives, such as stroganoff and fish pie. “It’s still home cooked, tasty food but more cost effective.” Weston Castle Football is key for this northern-based sports bar operator with 24 sites, and the Premier League and Champions League matches playing through the week and into the weekends has been giving Weston Castle “two bites of the cherry”, said managing director Chris Tulloch. Like-for-likes were up 5% for this month, which was purely sport driven, while benefits continued to be felt by the chain’s two most recent refurbishments in Accrington. Tulloch said he was now looking to invest further in the estate, with two refurbishments in Wigan and Leigh planned for completion within the next 12 weeks. La Tasca Last week like-for-likes were flat for La Tasca, the chain of 67 Spanish tapas restaurants. But where sales have been flat or slightly down, as was the case for September, chief executive Simon Wilkinson said the company was in profit growth. “We’ve gone from offering the highest discounts in the industry to now having one of the lowest,” said Wilkinson. Menu changes have resulted in better quality product, and spend per head had increased in new sites. October and November were “quiet” months for the chain, but Wilkinson was looking forward to reaping the benefits from the pre-Christmas party market. “On price points, we are confident we have the best value offer on the high street,” said Wilkinson. Bulldog After a fabulous summer, it comes as no surprise to Bulldog, the Lincolnshire-based coaching inn operator, that October’s trade is quieter than in recent months. “Last week wasn’t the best for us, and we were slightly down year-on-year,” said managing director Kevin Charity. “However, we are still tracking our budgets, so we are more than happy,” he said, adding that Bulldog experienced a phenomenal September. “We tend to get a late summer surge in September, as once the schools are back, the ‘maturer’ market tends to take short breaks.” Tynemill Experiencing life as a business of two halves, Tynemill’s managing director Chris Holmes reports that while its Castle Rock brewery in Nottingham is doing “fantastically well” its pub estate is beginning to feel the pinch. “As a brewer, we’re a small player in a big marketplace and demand for our beer in the freetrade is great, but while our pubs are doing okay, I am starting to feel the stickiness of the market – the reduction in people’s disposable income,” said Holmes. “It doesn’t feel good, although we’re probably doing a lot better than many of our competitors.” He added: “Some of our pubs are down, some are doing the same, but I’m feeling that we might have to give more of our margins away to hold onto our customers, which as a private company we can do.” ETM Group Central London bar operator the ETM Group reported like-for-likes last week as being slightly ahead of 2010, but operations director Hannah Bass added the price increases and rising costs – such as the new minimum wage coming into effect in the first week of October – would affect the bottom line. Overall, corporate parties kept trade strong at White Swan, the Botanist, Prince Arthur and Cadogan Arms in the week prior to half-term, with the White Swan taking £5,000 more than the same week last year. Pub People Company Wet and dry sales are holding up well at the Pub People Company, with sites in the north east of England. Like-for-likes for last week were “slightly up” which, said operations director Andrew Crawford, was probably weather related. “We were expecting a dip, but while some pubs did see trade fall others made up for it with comparatively good sales.” The Denby Lodge, a destination food pub situated between Derby and Mansfield, has seen solid growth year-on-year, with wet sales up 5% and dry up 9%. “We have new menus and have refreshed our offering, delivering quality and good service. It’s about getting the simply things right,” Crawford added. “Our offers are strong in the marketplace for food, and we have been working hard to maintain margins by delivering clever and creative range of products and offers.” He concluded: “It’s still tough out there, but we are pleased with what we are doing. We feel we are going in the right direction in a very competitive market place.”