Trading across the eating and drinking out sectors in the UK remained robust in October, against a backdrop of the eurozone crisis and falling consumer confidence, as the public increasingly turned to brands offering “quality, value, consistency and reliability”. The latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker, which monitors the performance of 24 major pub and restaurant groups including Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread and Gondola, found like-for-like sales climbed by 0.9% last month, after a 2.8% rise in September. Total sales, which include the effect of new openings, were up 5.1% on September 2010, demonstrating that despite the challenging trading environment operators continue to invest in new sites and upgrading or refreshing of existing portfolios. Trevor Watson, director at Davis Coffer Lyons: said “The figures show that operators have been able to sustain and indeed grow top line sales. Some operators have benefited from the unseasonably warm and dry autumn. Management emphasis continues to be focused on defending margins against a background of rising costs in just about every key line of the P&L account.” Richard Hathaway, KPMG’s head of Travel, Leisure & Tourism, added: “Despite the turmoil in the eurozone, the performance of Britain’s leading pub and restaurant operators remains remarkably robust. Although like-for-like growth remains modest, continued positive figures in the current environment are a credit to the quality of the sector’s brands and customer offerings. “Looking forward, however, weak consumer confidence, high inflation and the on-going squeeze on personal finances remain the biggest threats to underlying growth for pub and restaurant operators and, unfortunately, these are not likely to go away anytime soon. The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement will therefore be eagerly awaited and the sector will be keen to see some growth stimulus measures that would encourage confidence during the festive season.” Jonathan Leinster, head of UBS European Leisure Research, observed: “The 0.9% like-for-like increase is comparable to the 1.1% rise recently reported by JD Wetherspoon for the quarter ended October 23. Consumers are still allocating discretionary spend to pubs and restaurants, however, UK pubs stocks have continued on their downward trajectory over the past three months. “In part, this is due to ongoing concerns over UK consumer spending. However our UK household cash flow indicates that cashflow pre-savings should rise 2.5% in 2012, which would be similar to 2010 and a significant improvement on 2011. We believe that consumers do find value in some of the pub offerings and we maintain ‘Buy’ ratings on JD Wetherspoon, Marston’s and Greene King.”