Pub operators couldn’t seem to catch a break last year as the unpredictable weather added to an already difficult time for the industry having to deal with soaring costs and a slowdown in consumer spending.
The ‘Beast from the East’ stopped people from venturing out much in February and March, while the hot weather in July and August meant punters stayed away from M&B’s Harvester and Toby Carvery restaurants over summer.
But a mild and largely snow and ice-free Christmas helped to bolster sales over the key Christmas period.
Sales in the seven weeks to 5 January rose 6.9%, balanced pretty evenly between food (+6.9%) and drink (+6.6%).
That included a record Christmas Day for M&B, which raked in £12mln from its 1,700-strong portfolio of pubs and restaurants.
A pick-up in the food side of the business will no doubt please bosses and shareholders, as restaurants and food-led pubs have struggled in recent years amid intense competition.
Good start to 2019, too
“We are delighted with our performance over the festive trading season, with record trading on all key festive dates,” said chief executive Phil Urban.
“The weather was milder than last year, but the results were also due to the months of planning put in by our teams, and to several of our Ignite initiatives beginning to bear fruit.”
He added: “We now enter our toughest quarter and, given the success of the festive trading period, we would expect trade to be quiet at least until people get paid again.
“The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit will continue so we remain cautious about the outlook until the political and macroeconomic landscape becomes clearer. That said, we have made a good start to the year.”
M&B shares jumped 5.2% on Thursday morning to 282.4p.