Britain's pub scene is changing as high streets get used to longer opening times, smoking bans and increased appetite for eating out.

A number of companies at the sharp end of this overhaul have aired their views to the City in recent days - and the situation appears to be far from th e grim headlines of last year predicting excess drink-ing and civil war on the streets.

It's still early days as longer drinking hours came into play in November, at the same time as local councils took control of licensing from magistrates.

The aim was to offer flexible, rather than uniform, opening times.

Enterprise Inns, the UK's largest tenanted pubs operator with 9,000 sites, said licensing reform had so far had little bearing, as it reported minimal impact on trade but a more relaxed atmosphere, especially at closing time.

Wayne Brown, an analyst at Altium Securities, said the comments reflected the first signs of a culture shift occurring in the UK's town centres.

He said: "There is definitely a change that is developing as pubs and bars stay open longer and the trend we are seeing is that people are going out later.

"I'm not sure we are going to completely develop the European model of going out, eating and drinking later, but there is certainly a trend towards that."

It's not all good news though. Later opening times mean paying staff more and beefing up security, steps which all cost more money.

Walkabout and Bar Risa owner Regent Inns has been the worst hit by the licensing changes after it took a cautious approach to the new regulation by reducing venue capacities and adopting a low risk response to extended drinking times. Annual profits before one-off items to July 1 fell 23 per cent to £5 million.

There were also fears the nightclub sector might be badly hit, as longer pub hours offered a host of alternative venues for late-night drinkers.

While there has been some short-term evidence of this, the country's biggest operator said a night on the tiles was far from dead and buried.

Leisure group Luminar said its dancing division - best known for clubs such as Oceana and Liquid - enjoyed positive sales growth in August.

Overall, like-for-like sales for the month were still down 2.4 per cent, as the improvement was offset by tough trading at the company's division featuring Chicago Rock Cafe and Jumpin' Jaks sites.

All in all, it appears that Britons are adopting a more leisurely approach to drink-ing, perhaps even adopting a more continental attitude to going out. Cheap deals are out and the key is taking your time over a tipple.

Neil Williams, from the British Bar and Pub Association, said: "We always said this would discourage people drinking against the clock. But it will take time for Britons to adopt a European type of drinking culture. Binge drinking should not be linked with opening hours. It was time we treated people like adults."

But it's not the only challenge that landlords and venue owners are facing.

Next year a smoking ban will be introduced in England and Wales to mimic laws in Scotland and Ireland with analysts suggesting it could pose fresh headaches for landlords.

In Ireland, drinks group Diageo last month was hit by a three per cent fall in sales of Guinness as drinkers left pubs.

The company pointed to an 18 per cent growth in the volume of wine sold and a seven per cent increase in the volume of spirits but said it was down to people drinking at home.

The pub is a now smoke-free zone in the Emerald Isle and it looks like a similar trend could take its toll on the British landlord when a similar ban is introduced in the UK next year.

Mr Williams suggested there was still great uncertainty about how the smoking ban would hit landlords.

He said: "This is not just about removing a few ash trays from pubs. We have not yet had the definitive set of regulations and until then how do pub owners know whether to invest or try and get planning permission for an outdoor area?

"There are many complex decisions that have to be made and it could cause problems for small businesses."

Birmingham-based Mitchells & Butlers is well positioned in the food sector after the All-Bar-One owner said over 35 per cent of the group's revenue already comes from food with sales of 96 million meals in a year.

Mitchells said its new summer menus had been well received by customers with like-for-like food sales for the 50 weeks to September 16 increasing by 7.4 per cent -with 35 per cent of group revenue now in meals.

And the group's performance in Scotland, where a smoking ban was introduced in March, shows the importance of luring customers with food. Meal sales were up 11 per cent, while drink was down one per cent.