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. Last week’s half-term holiday created growth and disappointment in equal measure, but overall October has been a strong month. The milder weather and good sporting action at the weekends boosted sales figures, and growth for some community pubs has been encouraging. Here’s what 10 different companies told M&C Report: TCG A solid week in what has been a solid month for TCG, with 107 pubs and bars across the country. Strong family trade during half-term week saw London and the south east performing well, with central London seeing growth of 6-7% on the same period last year, compared to the average 1% overall, a reflection of what TCG’s chief operating officer Nigel Wright described as a “genuine north/south divide”. Henrys café bars and other food related pubs performed well, up 19%, while Camden in north London had a “record week”, which Wright attributed again to half-term but also to Halloween coming early, creating a “Hallo weekend”. Overall for October, Wright said the previous three weeks had benefited from good sport at the weekends, while the company’s real ale drive was also reaping rewards. TCG launched its first ever cask ale festival, “Proud of Our Ale”, in the first week of October to coincide with National Cask Ale Week. “In two years we’ve moved from having a few cask ale sites to having cask in 60% of our estate. It’s been led by customer demand,” said Wright, adding: “Our festival has seen something like a 28% growth in cask ale.” Loungers A record week for Loungers last week, with half-term school holidays delivering the expected good results. Like-for-likes for last week, however, were misleading at just 0.6% up, due to an exceptionally successful opening of the company’s Cosy Club in Taunton in 2010, which provided “honeymoon trading” over this period last year. This said, Loungers’ managing director Alex Reilley admitted that October had been “fairly flat”. “We’re not seeing the like-for-like growth that we were seeing this time last year, or at the beginning of this year.” Loungers, which currently has a total of 19 sites offering a mix of café bar and casual dining experiences, is set to open its third Cosy Club next week, taking the estate to 20. Reilley added that 2012 would see further openings, with three new venues planned for the first three months of next year. CG Restaurants Half term produced a dynamic week for CG Restaurants, the bar and restaurant operator with the chain of Fire & Stone pizza restaurants, with like-for-likes up 3% in what otherwise had been a pretty flat October. Portsmouth (Gunwharf Quays) had a “phenomenal” week with double-digit growth, which managing director Hugh Fowler attributed to mild weather, half-term holidays and the fact that the Portsmouth site, despite having gained new competition from Jamie’s, had now been open for 18 months and had grown a “good, solid reputation”. In London, Covent Garden and Westfield London shopping centre both benefited from outside seating, added Fowler. Benito’s Hat This central London Mexican food chain with sites in Oxford Circus, Goodge Street and Covent Garden had a fantastic October, with all sites performing level with, or above, expectations. “We’ve had a wonderful October and last week was no exception,” said founder Ben Fordham. Covent Garden, which had been a “cause for concern” in that it wasn’t trading to its full potential, stepped up to the mark this month. “It had been trading okay, but we had believed it had the potential to be the best of our sites, but for some reason it wasn’t achieving its potential. Suddenly, at the beginning of October it jumped. We’re not sure why, but we had tweaked some details and done some extra marketing and this obviously worked,” said Fordham. Living Ventures October was good for Living Ventures, with its chain of bars and restaurants in the north of England, with an exception of one venue in London. Like-for-likes for the month were up 3-4% and trade was reported as being better than in recent months. Last week was a “bit busier” due to the half-term holiday, but pretty much the same as last year, said finance director Andrew Haigh, adding that the company was looking forward to a better Christmas than last year, which was “pretty rubbish” due to the bad weather. “We’re quite positive for December, but when we look at the economy, inflation and disposal income we feel a bit nervous about how things will generally pan out,” said Haigh. Anglian Country Inns Milder, brighter weather brought rewards for this pub operator with sites on the north Norfolk coast, with like-for-likes for October up 33% at the Jolly Sailor and 11% up at the White Horse, both in Brancaster Staithe. In Hertfordshire, the Fox was ahead of last year, up 4-5% like-for-like. In Hitchin, the company’s new site, the Hermitage Road Bar & Restaurant, was performing exceptionally “just under 50% ahead of its first months’ forecast”, said managing director James Nye. “We are chuffed to bits with October.” Half-term week specifically produced dramatic increases again on the Norfolk coast, with the Jolly Sailors seeing like-for-likes for last week up nearly 50%. Pho October produced great results for Pho’s three sites in central London, with each reporting their best ever weeks’ trading. Last week, Soho was up 15-20% on like-for-likes, while Oxford Circus was up 5-10%. “Autumn and spring time are what we call ‘Pho’ times, as we always do very well, and overall we are outperforming our forecasts,” said co-founder Stephen Wall. A month on since Pho’s site opening at Westfield Stratford City in East London and Wall reports the site is still doing well, but that he is working with the centre to further improve the business potential. Out of London, Pho’s Brighton site had a good week last week, up 5% on like-for-likes, following a period of “ups and down” and more unpredictable trading. McMullen October represented the start of the new financial year for the Hertford brewer and pub operator, with retail cash sales up 11% and comparable sales up 4%. Last week, half-term, was flat, which managing director Peter Furness-Smith said was disappointing after such a strong start to the year. “We are, however, very encouraged to see liquor sales up 5% in our community pubs. It has been a struggle for many years, but they are now doing well.” McMullen’s new developments in Windsor, Cuffley and Chingford are all exceeding expectations. “All-in-all,” concluded Furness-Smith. “We’ve had a good start to the new year.” Thorley Taverns Last week started well for Thorley Taverns, with more than 20 pubs, clubs and hotels in Thanet on the Kent coast, with the milder weather and half-term holidays seeing adjusted (excluding a big, one-off event this time last year) like-for-likes up 5%. “We were riding high, but Saturday was a bit disappointing,” said operations’ director Philip Thorley. “We normally do very well on Halloween, which came that bit too early this year, and people just didn’t seem to be dressing up and going out. That meant Saturday was a bit flat for us, which slowed our like-for-like growth for the week.” Accommodation for the week was well up on last year, and Thorley said he was confident of a good week this week, as the milder weather was set to continue. Abokado Double-digit growth in October saw like-for-likes up 10-15% for Abokado, the London-based chain of food bars, with the month starting with a very strong first week. “Every store, except one West End site that has over-performing and is now levelling out, has seen growth,” said managing director Mark Lilley. Last week saw Abokado benefit from a big relaunch of its hot food offering, with “punchy advertising” which saw a 6% growth on last year. Hot food sales are expected to continue to grow. “We are confident we will be able to maintain our like-for-like performance,” said Lilley, adding that busy lunches not “day part sales”, which had been producing strong trade at sites during the hot weather, were fuelling growth. “Our prices are stable and people want something healthy and filling and this is driving sales across our sites.”