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Trading for pubs and restaurants across the U.K. improved during March largely due to the unseasonably warm weather, according to a study released Tuesday, although the outlook remains subdued.
The Coffer Peach Business Tracker reported that comparable sales in March rose 1.9%, following falls of 2.1% and 3.7% in January and February respectively--traditionally weak trading months.
The tracker monitors trends in the eating and drinking-out market by collecting monthly performance data from 24 companies, including Whitbread PLC (WTB.LN), Mitchells & Butlers PLC (MAB.LN), Spirit Pub Co. PLC (SPRT.LN) and Marston's PLC (MARS.LN).
Total sales, which include new openings, rose 6.3%.
Analyst Peter Martin of Peach Factory, a market intelligence group that produces the report in partnership with KPMG, UBS AG (UBS) and investment advisory service The Coffer Group, said the figures reflect favorable weather conditions.
"The good weather will certainly have helped trading, particularly in the pub market, which performed more strongly than high-street restaurants," he said.
Still, Martin cautioned trading remains relatively subdued as economic weakness, below-inflation pay rises and unemployment crimp consumer spending in the country.
"March's figures essentially put the sector back on an even keel. The informal eating and drinking-out market has remained fairly stable over the past two years in terms of like-for-like growth, and we continue to predict another essentially flat trading year," Martin added.
Jonathan Leinster, European leisure research analyst at UBS, said: "We believe consumers are still happy to allocate discretionary spend to eating and drinking out, and pub-restaurants and other low-cost food options are growing share within that market."
-By Simon Zekaria, Dow Jones Newswires; +44 207 842-9410; email@example.com