The World Cup and bad weather have been blamed for a sharp decline in the pub and restaurant business during the last quarter to July.
Taylor Nelson Sofres Meal Trak statistics show that in the three months to July, business in the restaurant sector dropped by 4.4 per cent compared with the same period last year.
Pub restaurants were among the hardest hit, with business dipping by 7.4 per cent. Bar food sales remained static.
Statistics for amusement machines in pubs are understood to show a drop from average takings of 110-115 per week last year to 104 per week up to July.
Whitbread, which owns the Brewers Fayre and Hogshead chains, believes the figures can be explained by a combination of the World Cup and bad weather encouraging people to stay at home.
A spokeswoman for the company argues that it will take a few more months of normal trading before reliable trends can be identified.
But some City analysts believe there is already evidence to suggest the sector is in decline.
Stuart Price, a brewing and pubs analyst for Credit Suisse First Boston, comments: “The downturn has been there for some time.
“It means that some companies will have to cut back on expansion plans. It wouldn’t surprise me if there were one or two profit warnings next year.”
A spokesman for the regional brewer and pub owner Marston Thompson & Evershed says the company has seen a downturn in its region, Staffordshire, too, adding: “We are planning to promote our way out of it.”