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.
There were good results for some businesses last week, but for others the start of November proved to be nothing more than a damp squib, with the Friday/Saturday fireworks’ events hitting most venues. Here’s what 10 different companies told M&C Report:
A good week for 3Sixty Restaurants, with sites in London, the Midlands and the North West. London continued to trade well, with like-for-likes up 13% for the first week of November, with corporate spending returning to the city and Canary Wharf. In the Midlands the company saw “significant growth”, up 15%, while the North West, like-for-likes were down 4%, which was “better than it has been”, said CEO James Horler. Last Friday, was busier than normal, but Saturday (firework’s night) was quiet. Horler commented that weekend lunchtimes were busier, a trend that was growing, at the expense of midweek lunches. “We trading ahead of budgets,” said Horler, adding that the darker evenings traditionally brought a boost to business for 3Sixty Restaurants, with people tending to eat out earlier.
A tremendous week for the Italian restaurant and bar operator Pesto, which reported a 4% increase in like-for-likes for last week, with the Trafford Centre experiencing an exceptional day yesterday, with takings up over a third on a normal Sunday. Elsewhere, managing director Neil Gatt said Manchester was doing very well, up 13% on last year, while Liverpool was flat, due to a major Pizza Express opening nearby. Glasgow, the company’s newest site, was continuing with steady growth. The positive start to November followed consistently good October.
London-based food bar operator Tossed is experiencing high single digit like-for-like growth, with the first week back after half-term holidays (last week) seeing 6-7% increases year-on-year. Half-term holidays reap big rewards (60% increases) for Tossed’s shopping centre sites, namely Westfield Stratford City and Wesfield London, while high streets regain the lead once schools return, said Vincent McKevitt. Tossed’s Hot & Healthy range was showing the biggest growth for the company year-on-year, although the current milder weather was still allowing growth in the company’s cold categories.
Le Bistro Pierre
Post half term, the nine-strong French restaurant business described last week’s trading as “flat and backwards”. The week began slowly and then fireworks’ events hit trade on both Friday and Saturdays with a few exceptions, namely Ilkley, which opened in June and had its best week to date last week. “Last year and 2009 were very strong for us in our established locations, so when looking at last week’s figures we acknowledge that we’re comparing them to what had been exceptional trading. Overall our sales are strong, so we are not unduly concerned,” said CEO Robert Beacham. October and November are traditionally good months for Le Bistro Pierre, although Sheffield had a tough week. “It’s more of a community restaurant and it was the most affected by Friday and Saturday [fireworks’ events].” Sunday lunches are strong performers, which last Sunday being 30% on the previous (end of half-term) Sunday.
Last week was fractionally down, 1-2%, on like-for-likes, and marginally off budget. “We’re not doing brilliantly, trade is dull, but we’re doing okay,” said Mark Derry, director of Brasserie Blanc with sites in key city locations across the country. Last week showed that spend per head was fractionally up, while covers were slightly down when compared with same period last year, but Derry went on to say that this wasn’t consistent to performance across the rest of the year. For the year-to-date, Brasserie Blanc is currently in period three, business was flat, but predictably so. However, Christmas bookings were up year-on-year and dinners appeared to be holding up better than lunchtimes.
Following a strong October, with TLC Inns reporting its best October the company had ever seen with like-for-likes up 11%, the first week of November was “predictably” disappointing, with like-for-likes down 2-3%. Founder Steve Haslam attributed the change in fortunes to people making an economic decision about going to firework displays over dinners out. “We find when it turns into November with the darker nights, it takes people a couple of weeks to get used to the change. That, and fireworks nights, has a detrimental effect on trade and created a sluggish week,” said Haslam, who was looking forward to a big new venture for the company, Grand Central a 240-seater US bar and grill concept, which is due to open mid-November in Basildon, Essex.
It was a quiet week for Kurnia, the Lincolnshire-based pub group, with the pub managers reporting that last Friday and Saturday were “very quiet” indeed. Darker nights, fireworks and even illness kept customers out of the pubs, said managing director Michael Kheng, who wasn’t expecting much improvement for the duration of the month. “It’s a poor month. Year-on-year we reflect the same levels for November, trade always drops off dramatically, which we put down to the colder weather, darker nights and slower spending prior to Christmas,” said Kheng, adding that October had finished “spot on” with last year. “Once the excitement of Christmas kicks in, things will pick up,” he added.
Despite the first weeks of November traditionally being the hardest trading period (along with February) for this midlands-based pub operator, Peach showed 1-2% like-for-like growth last week. “We were running at 4-5% like-for-like growth, but once the clocks go back and it turns cold, things fall for us,” said co-founder Lee Cash. Fireworks’ night isn’t good for trade, although two sites do exceptionally well, with sausages from BBQs and hot chocolates producing good sales for the fireworks’ night passing traffic. Cash said good marketing and a focus on events were keeping the company in growth. “We’ve been working hard to make our pubs relevant to their towns, whether it’s live music, menu tastings or whatever, we’re listening to what people want from their pub. We not doing the same things every day, we are giving people another reason to come along.”
October finished well for this operator of 43 pubs and clubs in Brighton, up 6.3% against last year, and the success continued into November with the first week of the month up 6.4%. “We have been working well with the students with targeted activity, and our core pubs have been performing well too,” said managing director Gavin George, adding that while the milder weather was definitely having a positive impact (it was a lot colder this time last year), Brighton’s customers’ had a propensity to keep going out.
Southern Counties Taverns
Last week was tough for Southern Counties Taverns, the chain of 14 traditional, community wet-led pubs in the south of England, with like-for-likes on a par with last year. Managing director Bert Johnson said: “It’s getting towards being the last pay packet before Christmas for many, and people are really starting to cut back. If you get paid the last Friday of the month, you’ll be starting to think about Christmas spending now.” The poor start to the month followed a better than expected October, which finished with turnover up 10% for the month, but profit down. “Our profit is being hit with all the extra costs,” added Johnson.