All Bar One owner toasts strong Christmas trading

Pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers has defied the high street gloom and wet weather as it posted stronger Christmas sales.

The Toby Carvery and All Bar One owner said like-for-like sales jumped 5.6% over the core three-week Christmas trading period.

It said this helped to buoy like-for-like sales since its last update in November, with sales up 3.5% for the seven weeks to January 4.

The pub owner was strengthened by growing food sales, which increased 4% over the period, while drink sales rose 2.7%.

Over the full year to date, group sales have increased by 2.7% despite worries over consumer spending.

Mitchells & Butlers added that it has competed 81 conversions and remodels of its sites, as well as opening one new site, in recent months.

Mitchells & Butlers owns brands including Toby Carvery and harvester (Mitchells & Butlers/PA)
Mitchells & Butlers owns brands including Toby Carvery and harvester (Mitchells & Butlers/PA)

It said it is continuing to look for opportunities to make sites more premium where possible and is currently “encouraged” by the returns generated.

Phil Urban, chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, said the company posted “record sales across the key festive days”, with growth of 6.5%.

He said: “We are pleased with our trading performance over the festive trading season against a strong set of results last year, again demonstrating the breadth of appeal of our brands for special occasions.

“This continued progress reflects the output of our Ignite initiatives which will continue to be our focus for the year ahead.”

It follows a testing year for the hospitality industry, with 11,280 jobs lost in the casual dining sector in 2019, according to figures from the Centre for Retail Research.

Paul Ruddy, equity analyst at Goodbody, said: “The company is the first of the bigger players to report on the festive period and the update showing more than 5% growth will be encouraging to the sector at large.

“The clouds which hung over October and November due to wider macroeconomic challenges seem to have cleared with consumers willing to go out and spend in December – hinting that sunnier skies could lay ahead.”

Investors cheered the results, with shares jumping 2.8% to 433.5p in early trading on Thursday.