Value-led food offers helped All Bar One and Harvester operator Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) perform strongly over Christmas and make a resilient start to the New Year.
In a trading statement ahead of today's Annual General Meeting, M&B revealed that like-for-like sales in the nine weeks to 24 January were up by 1%, with a strong two week Christmas period.
Like-for-like food sales remained robust at 2.6% in the 17 weeks to 24 January, driven by value offers such as a main meal price of £3.50 at Crown Carveries and the £4.99 Harvester ‘Earlybird' offer.
M&B chairman Drummond Hall said: "We continue to carefully manage pricing to maximise cash contribution in a consumer environment where customers are rapidly becoming more value conscious and price sensitive."
Mark Brumby, leisure analyst at Blue Oar Securities, described M&B as "a winner" in the current market.
"It sells beer on average 40p below the price charged in leased pubs and is more attractively positioned towards food, families and females in the first place," he said. "The gap between the ‘better' pubs and their ‘less good' peers is widening."
Peter Backman, managing director of food service consultancy Horizons, said M&B's performance, which follows solid results from Greene King yesterday, shows that there is still life in the pub industry.
"While other sizeable pub operators have struggled, both Greene King and Mitchells & Butlers are utilising the benefits of their scale to buy better and reinvest this extra margin in further promotion, which in turn boosts turnover further," he said.
By Daniel Thomas
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