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Food sales at Marston's lift

BREWER and pub operator Marston&rsquo;s yesterday said that profits had continued to fall despite a surge in demand for cask ales and pub food. <br /><br />Marston&rsquo;s, which owns 2,200 UK pubs including the Pitcher &amp; Piano chain, reported pre-tax profits of &pound;70.3m for the&nbsp; year ended 3 October 2009, down 13.5 per cent on the year before.<br /><br />In June, the company tapped shareholders for &pound;165.5m and intends to use the bulk of the cash to build 60 large food-led pubs over the next three years.<br /><br />Sales seem to be lifting. Like-for-like sales slipped 0.6 per cent over the year, but the company said that in the last nine weeks they have climbed by 2.7 per cent. <br /><br />Like-for-like sales have jumped 3.1 per cent in the eight weeks to Nov 28 with food sales growing by 5.3 percent. <br /><br />Investec analysts were cheered by the progress and said that while it might take a while to turn around the business, Marston&rsquo;s is underpinned by &ldquo;an attractive and relatively secure yield&rdquo;.<br /><br />Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: &ldquo;We have a strong platform to make further progress over the coming year.&rdquo;