A FIVE-day boost as drinkers toasted the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee failed to prevent one of the UK’s biggest pub firms reporting slower sales growth.
Wet weather and England’s disappointing Euro 2012 performance impacted on Harvester and Toby Carvery owner Mitchells & Butlers, with drink sales 1.4% lower than a year earlier in the 14 weeks to July 14.
Stronger food sales meant total like-for-like sales were 0.4% higher, although this compared with 2.7% in the previous half year and included a 4% rise over the five days of the Jubilee weekend. With sales up 1.6% in the final nine weeks of the period, Mitchells, which has some 1,600 sites, said its performance had been “resilient“ in challenging conditions.
The group, whose other brands include All Bar One, O’Neill’s and Crown Carveries, said profits for the year to October were set to be in line with City expectations for an 8% rise to £168m. Shares rose 3%.
Executive chairman Bob Ivell said: “Despite the continuing poor weather and challenging economic conditions, we are continuing to deliver a resilient operating performance.”
Numis analyst Douglas Jack said the update represented a “good performance“ against strong comparatives the previous year. He thinks the group will continue to see its margins squeezed for the rest of this year, but it should benefit as its food and energy bills rise at a lower rate the following year.
The group is also on course to open 55 pubs this year, mainly on retail parks where pubs benefit from high footfall and food sales. Ivell said the group is continuing its hunt for a new chief executive. He is in temporary charge after Jeremy Blood and Adam Fowle left in quick succession, while the company also lost its chairman, Simon Burke, last year.
Burke’s departure reportedly came after he fell out with billionaire activist investor and owner of Tottenham Hotspur football club Joe Lewis, who owns nearly a quarter of the shares in the company.