Soaring food sales have helped pub giant Mitchells & Butlers to report a 4.2 per cent rise in revenues in the first half of the year.
The Birmingham-based firm (MAB) has reported that for the first time in its history food sales have overtaken drink sales in the 28 weeks to April 9.
A 7.5 per cent increase in food sales meant total revenue increased 4.2 per cent across the period, to £912 million. That compares with sales of £875 million in the first half of 2010.
However, its operating profit remained static, at £136 million.
Interim chief executive Jeremy Blood said: “Our growth strategy is on track and has delivered a strong trading performance with total sales up 4.2 per cent.
“Harvester’s performance has been particularly good, supported by its new advertising campaign together with its new breakfast and take-away menus. We have successfully positioned Mitchells & Butlers more firmly within the eating-out market with nearly three quarters of our revenue now generated around eating-out.
“We have a healthy balance sheet and are investing for further growth with 50 new sites being opened this year from our brand roll-out.
"I have been impressed with the depth of skills within the Company that gives Mitchells & Butlers an excellent growth platform and enables the Board to have confidence in the prospects for the business.”
The results represent a boost for Mitchells after shares fell by six per cent on Friday after the firm announced it would not be offering a dividend to shareholders.
The company has been raising cash over the past year with a series of sell-offs as part of a plan to focus on food-led sales. That includes selling 52 budget hotels for £75 million and a host of pubs for £373 million.
For the 33 weeks to May 14 – which include Easter and the royal wedding bank holiday – like-for-like sales rose 3.3 per cent, with food up 5.5 per cent and drinks up 1.8 per cent.