Pub groups stay cheerful despite inflation concerns

Pub groups Mitchells & Butler (M&B) and Marston’s are both in glass half-full moods as sales return to pre-pandemic levels.

However rising costs are a concern, with utilities, wages and food all increasing.

Inflation rose to 9% in April, figures released this morning showed, with the Office for National Statistics highlighting that “all items” on restaurant and cafe menus had increased.

M&B, which operates around 1,800 pubs and restaurants under more than a dozen brands including Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One and Miller & Carter, said it is “encouraged by the steady recovery in sales”.

Phil Urban, chief executive at M&B, said the group had “made progress in each of our markets, with our food-led businesses continuing to lead the way”.

It generated an operating profit of £121m in the 28 weeks to April 9, on total sales of £1.16bn.

He acknowledged that “the trading environment remains difficult”, but the Birmingham-based group is continuing with its capital investment plan, which it says is “delivering strong sales uplifts”.

Urban added: “The fundamental strengths of the business remain, and we are well positioned to continue on our trajectory of recovery following the pandemic.”

Marston’s says sales have “largely normalised” at its 1,500 pubs and it has returned to profitable trading.

Andrew Andrea, chief executive of Marston’s, said the pub group can “look forward to an uninterrupted summer” after the Covid disruption of the last two years.

Marston’s is “not experiencing any material trading evidence” of customers limiting spending and is confident it would not be badly hit should the economic situation worsen.

Andrea added: “The pub remains the home of affordable socialising and has continually proven its resilience in previous times of economic challenge.

“We are operating a ‘business as usual’ mindset, positioning the group’s balanced and well invested pub estate for future sustainable like-for-like growth over the medium to long term.”

Marston’s made a pre-tax profit of £25.6m in the 26 weeks to April 2, on sales of £369.7m.