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M&B toasts a dining uplift

PUBS group Mitchells &amp; Butlers yesterday said it was optimistic about Christmas trading as it switched to a food focus to compensate for slower drinks revenue. <br /><br />The group said that it has recently introduced its &ldquo;winter menu&rdquo; to take advantage of the rise in consumer confidence, which has sparked people to splash out on good value food.<br /><br />M&amp;B reported average food sales per pub jumped nine per cent as the company cut staff turnover and opened a kitchen skills academy for training. <br /><br />Food now accounts for 41 per cent of its sales, from 38 per cent of sales a year ago.<br /><br />The firm posted a 24 per cent fall in pre-tax profits to &pound;134m for the year to 26 September &ndash; when it was hit by rising wage, alcohol duty and energy costs, as well as the onset of recession. <br /><br />But M&amp;B said it was outperforming both the eating-out and drinking markets.<br /><br />The group, which owns All Bar One and O&rsquo;Neills pubs, also revealed its chairman Drummond Hall, 50, will step down as chairman &ldquo;once an appropriate successor is in place&rdquo;. <br /><br />Chief executive Adam Fowle said: &ldquo;Mitchells &amp; Butlers has produced a robust operational performance in challenging conditions.&rdquo;<br /><br />The pub chain said it&nbsp; also hopes to make &pound;20m in cost savings during the year.