Marston's has joined its fellow pub operators in revealing stagnant sales figures during the past three months as trading is affected by the "challenging market".
Like-for-like sales in its Pub Company division (tenanted pubs) were down 0.6% for the 16 weeks to 19 January, while high margin wet sales in its managed pub division (Inns and Taverns) where down 2.6%.
However like-for-like food sales at Inns and Taverns rose 9.5%.
Overall sales at Marston's were up by 7.9%, in part thanks to the acquisitions of Sovereign Inns, Eldridge Pope and Ringwood Brewery last year.
Ralph Findlay, Marston's chief executive, said: "Marston's has a clear strategy for growth and a strong balance sheet supported by a substantially freehold pub estate which provides us with significant operational and financial flexibility.
"We are working hard to reduce the impact of rising costs while supporting tenants and lessees in this challenging market."
Findlay said that Marston's was cautious about the prospects for this year due to the smoking ban, weaker consumer confidence and pressures on costs and margins.
By Christopher Walton
E-mail your comments to Christopher Walton here.