Christmas and New Year trading at the UK's leading pub and restaurant groups was slightly better than a year ago, with collective like-for-like sales up 2.1%, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
A total of 24 major restaurant and pub companies provide data for the tracker, which found that total sales in the six weeks to 6 January, including the effect of new openings, rose by 4.7%.
The Coffer Peach Business Tracker monitors monthly performance across major pub and restaurant operators, including the likes of Mitchells & Butlers, Whitbread restaurants, Pizza Hut, Punch Pub Co, Gondola (owner of PizzaExpress), Tragus (Café Rouge and Bella Italia), Wagamama and TGI Friday's.
"Operators will be pleased to be up on last year, but with both Christmas Day and New Year's Eve falling mid-week, and so not affecting normal weekend trading, they would have been expecting a slightly better sales performance than last year," said Peter Martin of Peach Factory, the market consultancy that produces the sector tracker, in partnership with KPMG, UBS and the Coffer Group.
"The figures reflect the essentially flat marketplace we have experienced for the past year or so, where any sales growth for the leading groups has come from new openings, which in turn has helped them increase market-share at the expense of independents."
Martin added: "While there has been no big festive boost for eating and drinking out overall, neither has there been the decline some sections of the retail market have seen.
Regionally, the Coffer Peach figures showed the London market trading more strongly than outside the M25 during the Christmas period, with pubs performing better than restaurants overall.
Looking at week-by-week trading, the survey found a slow start to the festive celebrations with the last week of November and the first two weeks of December all down on 2011 in terms of like-for-like sales. Sales then picked up strongly in the week that ended on the weekend before Christmas, with restaurants in particular doing well. The week containing the New Year holiday also performed well, especially for pubs.
Mark Sheehan, managing director of Coffer Corporate Leisure, said: "Operators were generally expecting two full weeks trading pre Christmas last year and thus good like for likes were anticipated. These numbers are a little disappointing overall and to an extent reflect the very strong competition from independent and emerging brands especially in London. The bigger operators are not having it all their own way and innovative new operators are undoubtedly taking market share in the capital."
Ali Aneizi, co-head of leisure & hospitality at Baker Tilly Corporate Finance added: "Like for likes in December 2011 of 9.9% was always going to be difficult to match, but many operators will be pleased to continue the upward trend posted in November 2012. London continues to outperform the rest of the country, with Inside M25 securing higher like for likes for the 5th consecutive month; and with many well funded operators aggressively seeking new sites in the capital the competitive landscape in London is set to rise even further. Trading in London will therefore continue to be a double edged sword."
Jonathan Leinster, head of UBS European Leisure Research, said: "The figures show that LFL sales were stronger inside the M25. With the exception of a few months in summer this pattern was repeated in most of 2012. Total sales growth points to the multiples growing share, but site growth has clearly slowed since it averaged over 4% from September 2011 to April 2012 before starting to decelerate. The deceleration appears to be continuing and if LFL performance continues to be weak we would expect that to continue in 2013."