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. Just six weeks away from Christmas and customers are still happy to get out and spend, but they continue to look for good deals and premium offers. The milder weather remains good for trade, but with the final payday before Christmas fast approaching, could this all be about to change? Here’s what 10 different companies told M&C Report: TGI Friday’s TGI Friday’s continues to outperform the casual dining sector, with like-for-like growth still at 7% for the year. Spend per head has increased due to new burger and rib “premium” offerings, which encourage customers to trade up from the core product. Last week growth continued despite the chain’s Bluewater venue only just reopening after redevelopment, while the recently opened Westfield Stratford continued to take £120,000 a week. “It really is the case that we’ve not seen any downturn,” said managing director Karen Forrester, adding: “And it’s growth across the country. Our Teesside venue needs more tables.” Christmas bookings were slower than for the same period last year, but Forrester put that down to the milder weather and that people simply hadn’t considered the fact that Christmas was just six weeks away. Jamie’s Italian No change for Jamie’s Italian, with like-for-likes remaining flat across the board. Leeds, Nottingham and Liverpool has seen improvement, but were still trading below last year, said managing director Simon Blagden. “November has been tough Monday to Wednesday. We have strong weekends but it’s difficult to get people out mid-week in the provincial towns,” said Blagden, adding that spend per head had remained static at Jamie’s Italian for the past three years. “It’s volume we’re into.” Marketing activity remained locally focused, inviting businesses and the community into the restaurants, rather than anything on a wider scale. Probably a Pub Company Like-for-likes were up 8% last week for this midlands-based pub operator, which has been bucking any slowdown in business since September. Company owner Mike Staniforth said the milder weather in November was probably a factor in keeping people coming out, but also the company’s good value, mid-range price offering could be attracting customers from higher spend establishments. “Maybe people’s confidence is building too,” added Staniforth, “Last year there was a lot of gloom and doom around, and perhaps people are getting fed-up and deciding to go out and enjoy themselves whatever.” The company has been running a loyalty programme in recent weeks, which could be supporting the increased footfall, although Staniforth says it’s still too early to tell. Feng Sushi November has been good for this Japanese restaurant chain, with like-for-likes up 10-12% for venues in the west of London, while Feng Sushi’s new Billingsgate’s restaurant was “performing beyond expectations”, said co-founder Silla Bjerrum. The increases in trade were attributed to more customers and more repeat business. “The average spend is not up by much, but we are having more customers through the door,” said Bjerrum, adding that prices have been held, thanks to better negotiations with suppliers. Profit for the company is well up, which Bjerrum attributed to Feng Sushi’s being much better run since Luke Johnson acquired a majority stake in the business in 2010. “Year-on-year our investment and effort is really starting to show through,” said Bjerrum, adding that while Johnson tackled marketing and costs, she was able to concentrate on ingredient management. New Pub Company Sales revenue for this seven-strong London-based pub company remain strong, with like-for-likes in “healthy double digit” growth. Last week saw the company a percentage or two short of budget, but overall it’s ahead of the budget set for the year, said managing director Peter Linacre. The company was focusing on keeping “momentum in the business”, explained Linacre. “We have extended the hours of our Camden site from 1.30am to 3.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, which has had an impact on growth, and where we have carried our refurbishments we have seen the benefits too.” Linacre added: “We listen to feedback from our customers and communicate with our them directly, by email. We focus our energy on getting our message through to the customer.” Tavistock Leisure Trade is flat for this north east of England pub, restaurant and hotel group. The dark nights, colder weather and the prospect of just one more pay day before Christmas is causing customers to cut-back and stay home. “The doom and gloom in the news has a big impact on people,” said managing director Mark Hird. “It’s all so negative and it frightens people. We’re finding that where people used to go out twice a week, now it’s once a fortnight.” Hird said that while like-for-likes were flat, margins were being eroded as the company was forced to increasingly give people a reason to eat out. “People like to know where they’re going and what they’ll be spending before going out for night. We’re offering an all-inclusive three course meal with half a bottle of wine for £14.50, and people will leave home knowing that they’ll be spending £29 as a couple,” said Hird. Grand Union Group Although like-for-like sales were down 2% for last week, with increased door entry fees and lower wage costs, the group as a whole was more profitable, said managing director Adam Marshall. “In these tough economic times, the priority is to focus on excellent customer service and quality of product sold,” he said, adding: “Encouragingly, quantity of bookings are equally as high as last year.” Other news from the Grand Union Group, which runs 11 bars and pubs in London, was that as part of a corporate restructuring it hoped to “secure high calibre senior executives” in the form of a new finance director and operations director in the next few weeks. Butcombe Brewery The mild weather is heralded with boosting November’s trade to date for Butcombe Brewery, the West Country brewer and pub operator. Last week, like-for-likes were up 5.55%, which was in line with the good performance experience since the half-term holidays at the end of October. “We continually invest in our pubs, which appeals to the more discerning customer. A lot of pubs are under-invested in currently, and that helps us attract new customers,” said managing director Guy Newell, who added that the brewery business was doing extremely well as a guest beer supplier to Greene King. Newell was looking forward to positive like-for-likes this Christmas, after last year’s poor results. Gingerman Restaurant Group Turnover at this Brighton-based restaurant and pub group is on par with last year, which is a pretty good place to be, according to managing director Ben McKellar. However, while like-for-likes remained static, margins were being squeezed “left, right and centre”. “While our turnover remains the same we are happy to ride it out until next year, when we hope things will get better,” added McKellar, who went on to say that Brighton appeared to be a town of two halves: with businesses either trading well and busy, or were empty and going bust. “Places are regularly closing. A lot of new restaurants had opened in Brighton and I suppose it’s the natural order of things that some of these are falling by the wayside.” The Real Greek The Real Greek, the seven-strong London-based chain owned by Kefi Ltd, enjoyed “an encouraging” week, according to co-owner David Page. Average like-for-like sales growth for the group across the week pushed into double-digits as the company continued to make changes to the chain it acquired earlier this year from Capricorn Ventures. Page said that its Bankside and recently opened Westfield Stratford sites continued to standout but that the entire group was “holding its own”. He said: “We would like to do another one next year but we won’t rush. The chain is performing well but there is still some more work to do on the sites we already have.”