Belfast Telegraph

Mitchells & Butlers toasts record Christmas despite weather

The pub group said like-for-like sales grew 3.9% in the core three-week festive trading period to January 6.

All Bar One owner Mitchells & Butlers has reported strong Christmas trading, but pointed to a wider slowdown linked to bad weather.

The pub group, which also owns Harvester, said like-for-like sales grew 3.9% in the core three-week festive trading period to January 6.

Christmas Day saw record takings, with like-for-like sales growth of 5.4% and 225,000 meals sold.

But the firm said that in the seven weeks leading up to December, comparable sales came in at 1.6% as Mitchells was impacted by adverse weather.

Boss Phil Urban said: “We are pleased to have delivered continued strong trading results over the important festive period in the face of difficult weather for many of our guests, indicating the attractiveness of our offers in a competitive market.”

In November, Mitchells saw its shares plunge after warning it could scrap its next shareholder dividend payout on the back of lower profits and said it faced further risks amid Brexit uncertainty.

The pub group reported a fall in pre-tax profits to £77 million for the year to September 30, compared to £94 million the previous year.

It comes as the company works to offset a spike in buying costs on the back of the Brexit-hit pound, saying it expects those pressures to continue into the next financial year.

Pubs are expected to suffer if access to foreign workers is restricted as a result of Brexit, with the British Hospitality Association saying earlier this autumn that around 700,000 of the hospitality sector’s 3.2 million workforce are from the EU.

Rival pub chain Young’s last year said it was concerned that Brexit uncertainty was making it more difficult to attract and retain staff.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.