Pub group M&B pips its ri­vals with a dou­ble-digit sales boost

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Oliver Gill

THE com­pany be­hind Har­vester, All Bar One and Toby Carvery beat its ri­vals over the fes­tive sea­son while tak­ing a record £12m on Christ­mas Day alone.

Mitchells & But­lers’ (M&B) like-for­like sales swelled by 12.3pc in the fi­nal two weeks of De­cem­ber, pip­ping dou­ble-digit per­for­mances by the likes of Greene King and Stonegate. Like its ri­vals, M&B ben­e­fited from milder weather and the fact Christ­mas and New Year’s days fell in the mid­dle of the week. Chief ex­ec­u­tive Phil Ur­ban said records had fallen “on all key fes­tive dates”. Shares closed up 7.7pc at 289p.

Com­pa­ra­ble sales over the seven weeks to Jan 5 were 6.9pc higher and up 4.7pc over the 14 weeks to the same date. M&B, which was founded when the two Mid­lands brew­ing em­pires merged in 1898, has com­pleted 114 pub con­ver­sions over the last year and opened two new sites.

It op­er­ates more than 1,700 restau­rants and pubs, serv­ing about 140m meals and 430m drinks a year. The com­pany launched the first phase of its “Ig­nite” ini­tia­tives in 2016 to try to re­turn the busi­ness to sales growth.

The lat­est it­er­a­tion of the scheme fo­cuses on IT in­vest­ment and im­proved dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing and also in­cludes changes to staff sched­ul­ing and de­vel­op­ing new pub con­cepts.

Mr Ur­ban said: “The weather was milder than last year but the re­sults were also due to the months of plan­ning put in by our teams, and to sev­eral of our Ig­nite ini­tia­tives be­gin­ning to bear fruit.”

Walk­a­bout owner Stonegate said last week that sales over the last two weeks of De­cem­ber were 12pc higher. Greene King’s com­pa­ra­ble turnover was up 10.9pc dur­ing the same pe­riod.

Anna Barn­fa­ther, a Liberum an­a­lyst, said that de­spite ben­e­fit­ing from an ex­tra week­end of fes­tive trad­ing as a re­sult of mid­week hol­i­days, M&B had de­liv­ered “an im­pres­sive re­sult”. How­ever, the com­pany’s big­gest prob­lem re­mains its pen­sion fund deficit.

Mitchells & But­lers sales grew by 12 per cent

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