Restaurant and pub groups saw a boost in business in September, thanks partly to the unexpectedly warm weather.
Monthly like-for-like sales were up 2.2% on the same month last year, according to latest Coffer Peach Business Tracker data. The figures also showed it was the sector's 18th consecutive month of positive growth.
Total sales, which reflect the effects of new site openings, were up 5.2% on September 2014.
Although the better than expected late summer weather helped the market, the figures revealed steady, consistent growth in eating and drinking out, stretching back 18 months.
"Looking at the underlying trend, the 28 companies in the tracker sample together recorded year-on-year sales for the 12 months to the end of September 2.7% up on 2013," said Martin.
Brits are also continuing to eat out more, with the Peach BrandTrack consumer survey showing that 42% of adults eat out at least weekly. This is even higher, at 58%, in the 25-34 year-old bracket.
The data shows that the weakest part of the market remains drink-led bars and pubs outside of London, with like-for-like sales flat in September. However, branded casual dining chains emerge as a significant driver of growth outside of London.
"Total sales for the restaurant groups in the sample grew 11.6% outside the M25, buoyed by continuing brand roll-outs," said Martin. "Like-for-like performance is also improving as chains revamp existing sites and are more willing to shed poorer sites."
The figures are a further demonstration of strength in the eating and drinking out sector and reflect both the improving economy and the gradual habitual change to drink and dine out more often.
Paul Newman, head of leisure and hospitality at Baker Tilly, predicted: "The continuation of such positive like-for-like sales growth will do nothing to quell the current private equity feeding frenzy in the restaurant and bar sector and provides further impetus for those brands that are expected to consider exit options over the coming months."
The Coffer Peach Tracker industry sales monitor for the UK pub and restaurant sector collects and analyses monthly performance data from 28 operating groups, and is recognised as the established industry benchmark.
Pub and restaurant group sales performance for last 12 months