Brewer and pub operator Greene King today brushed off worries about the English smoking ban as it unveiled record results.
Rooney Anand, chief executive, revealed that he and 99 other Greene King employees spent Sunday visiting pubs and questioned 5,000 customers about the ban.
He said the results were "very encouraging" with 70% saying they thought pubs were better for being smoke free, and 48% revealing they would visit more often.
The operator has spent £10m to improve English pubs, sold a number of wet-led outlets most at risk from the ban and redefined the food offer to attract new customers.
"We are well prepared and in a good position to grasp the opportunities afforded by the ban by broadening the appeal of our pubs," Anand said.
The company also revealed it would spend £100m buying back its shares, on top of the £28m already acquired, and said it was seeking a joint venture partner to unlock the property value of 35% of its pub estate.
Pre-tax profits for the year to the end of April rose 17% from £119.6m to £139.8m.
By Daniel Thomas
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