The restaurants and pubs sector endured a further decline in like-for-like sales in April, as wavering consumer confidence mixed with inclement weather.
Like-for-like sales across managed pub and restaurant groups fell 0.8% against the same month last year, according to the Coffer Peach Business Tracker.
The Peach tracker -- which collects sales figures directly from 31 major companies including Mitchells & Butlers chains, Pizza Hut, Whitbread's chains, Pizza Express, The Restaurant Group's chains, Greene King's Spirit brands, Marston's, Fuller's, Young's and Tesco's Giraffe -- found these large restaurant groups enjoyed a 2.5% increase in like-for-like trading but big pub groups slumped to a 2.7% decline.
This echoed March's figures where restaurants chains were up 1% against a marginal rise of 0.4% for pubs.
Total sales were up 3.1% on 2015, reflecting new site openings, though these were at a slower rate than previously.
The underlying annual trend shows sector like-for-likes running at 1.5% up for the 12 months to the end of April.
UBS analysts observed that the 12-month like-for-like moving average growth rate slowed to 1.0% in April, compared to March at 1.2%, February 1.1% and January 1.3%.
Sifting through the data by region, London outperformed the rest of the UK, with like-for-likes up 1% against a 1.3% fall outside the M25.
"April's performance can in part be put down to the cold weather, to Easter being in March rather than April this year and also to the general slow-down in the wider economy in the run-up to the Brexit vote, but the underlying fact is that the overall market has been essentially flat since the start of the year," said Peter Martin, vice president of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Tracker, in partnership with Coffer Group, RSM and UBS.
He added that cold weather also helped explain why restaurants did better than pubs.
"But taken together we are seeing a slowdown in market growth. Industry sentiment at the start of the year was that 2016 was going to be a tougher year than last, and that seems to be panning out. Optimism levels among operators are still positive, but down on 2015," he said.
The slowdown in growth has in part been driven by an increasing number of new concepts and brands taking market share from the established, mainstream operators on which the Tracker focuses, suggested RSM's head of leisure and hospitality Paul Newman.
"This disruption is provoking these operators to review their brand portfolios and is driving increasing trade M&A activity in the sector, as witnessed by Whitbread acquiring a stake in Pure, and Pizza Express acquiring upmarket pizza delivery chain Firezza," he said. "We see this trend set to continue throughout the remainder of the year."