British weather, in all its unreliability, is the single most unchanging factor in its impact on consumer behaviour, MCA’s The Conversation has heard.

Speaking at the event, MCA contributing editor Peter Martin told attendees that in his ten years of operating the Coffer Peach Business Tracker – a sector sales tracker produced by CGA in association with The Coffer Group and RSM – “the weather is the one thing that hasn’t changed over the years.”

Having seen sales above and beyond expectations in his brands’ first month of reopening, Fulham Shore chairman David Page echoed Martin’s view, adding that whilst the weather has impacted consumer behaviour “for years,” it is also the one thing that can’t be relied upon.

Fulham Shore’s two restaurant brands, The Real Greek and Franco Manca, he explained, are always “very busy” when the weather is hot, and have subsequently benefited in the past few weeks due to a combination of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme and recent heatwave.

“As soon as the temperature gets above a certain level, one, you can use the outside space, and two, people are reminded of Greece and they go out and have a salad or a mezze,” he said. “And it’s the same in the pizza business.”

“Those habits have been going on for years, and we all know you can’t rely on the weather.”

Similarly, Page noted that just as the coronavirus crisis hasn’t overshadowed rain and sun as key players in consumer trends, he doesn’t foresee the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in its push towards weekday dining as something that is here to stay.

“I’m not sure it will stick in terms of changing people’s habits,” he said. “Most successful restaurant companies in the UK have been trying to get people weaned off Friday and Saturday nights for years, which is historically when the UK consumer goes out.”

Having reopened approximately 25 Franco Manca sites by the middle of June, Page said that one of the biggest takeaways from that period was the extent to which, even in lockdown, consumers stayed true to their weekend habits.

“What was really confusing to us is that people hadn’t changed their habits,” he said. “Friday to Sunday was still the busiest period of the week. Even though everyone was at home they were still ordering pizza on a Friday and Saturday.”

But whilst this some habits may die hard, “it behoves all of us to watch very closely what those trends are,” added Peter Martin, as they could be subject to change.

“There’s all sorts of issues going on at the moment,” he said. “Operators will need to understand what consumers are thinking.”

“We’ve got to stay close to what consumers are telling us.”