Belfast Telegraph

Mitchells & Butlers toasts hot spell after sales rise 1.8%

The owner of All Bar One and Harvester has toasted the recent hot weather spell for helping drive a welcome turnaround in trading.

Mitchells & Butlers, which also owns chains including Toby Carvery and O'Neill's, reported a 1.8% rise in like-for-like sales for the eight weeks to September 17.

It thanked the heatwaves in August and earlier this month for the return to sales growth, with drink sales surging by 3.7% and food up 0.4%.

I marks a rebound after sales had fallen throughout a difficult past year, with like-for-like sales in the 51 weeks so far down by 0.8%.

Phil Urban, chief executive of M&B, said: "We are encouraged by our improved trading performance in recent months.

"Weather in recent weeks has certainly been helpful to sales, but in addition we are starting to benefit from increased investment activity, instilling a commercial culture and a faster pace of execution and innovation in our business."

He repeated warnings over soaring costs from the recently introduced national living wage.

This, together with investment in a revamp across its estate, will hit profit margins over the year to the end of September.

M&B has been vocal in warning over the impact of the new minimum wage, as it employs more than 44,000 workers nationwide.

It warned over profits last September after a poor summer in 2015, with Mr Urban joining at the helm two months later pledging to respond to challenges with ''energy and urgency''.

The group has overhauled 244 sites in its estate over the past year, while also opening seven sites.

M&B serves around 140 million meals and 430 million drinks each year and is one of the largest operators within the UK's £80 billion eating and drinking out market.

Its brands also includes Miller & Carter, Premium Country Pubs, Sizzling Pubs, Crown Carveries, Vintage Inns, Browns, Castle, Nicholson's and Ember Inns, as well as Innkeeper's Lodge hotels in the UK and Alex restaurants and bars in Germany.

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