Sales jump at M&B as deals cheer punters

Pubs and restaurants group Mitchells &amp; Butlers yesterday said that it expected its full year earnings to beat current forecasts, after a return to bargain dining and cheap boozing boosted sales.<br /><br />The owner of All Bar One and O&rsquo;Neill&rsquo;s pubs chains reported a like-for-like sales growth of 2.6 per cent in the 10 weeks to 19 September. <br /><br />The group said increasing demand for pub food had led to an acceleration in sales growth as offers including main meals for &pound;2.99 and a &pound;5 all-day carvery proved popular. Food sales surged by 5.8 per cent over the period, and drink sales were up by 1.2 per cent.<br /><br />Charles Stanley analyst James Dawson said that was partly due to customers staying at home instead of holidaying abroad. &ldquo;It appears that the pub food offering capitalised upon stronger demand during the summer holidays presumably assisted by stay at home vacationing this year,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Managed pub companies have outperformed rivals who operate tenanted or leased pubs during the recession as they are able to be more flexible in terms of pricing and promotional activity.<br /><br />Chief executive Adam Fowle&nbsp; said: &ldquo;It&rsquo;s clear that the managed model allows you an easier way to pass on your business&rsquo;s scale to the customer. I think that we are slightly advantaged on that front.&rdquo; <br /><br />Fowle was appointed chief executive in August following the resignation of Tim Clarke after the company lost money closing debt positions relating to controversial hedging arrangements. <br /><br />M&amp;B stopped paying dividends last year as it focused on paying down its &pound;2.6bn debt pile and Townsend said it didn&rsquo;t anticipate restoring the dividend in the next 12 months.<br />