The Midland-based Union Pub Company has appointed a 'smoking Tsar' to help prepare its licensees for the impending ban.
The company - the tenanted and leased arm of Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries - made the decision following the Commons vote to ban smoking in all pubs and restaurants in England by summer 2007.
A ndrew Andrea has moved from his role as finance director with WDB Brands - the brewing and brands division of W&DB - to take on the role of change management director with UPC, which owns 1,800 pubs across England and Wales.
UPC md Stephen Oliver said yesterday: "We recognise that this change is one of the biggest our industry has had to deal with and that many licensees will have to adopt a new way of working. We have a responsibility to make this transition as smooth as possible and help our pubs tackle the challenges head on. As a result we have developed this high-level board position."
One of Andrew's initial priorities will be to focus on investment in outside eating and drinking areas.
This month the company is launching a trial in seven Burton pubs to test a range of ideas that will help outlets retain and attract customers.
The investment by UPC will pay for developments such as the creating of comfortable and attractive outside areas, using pergolas, awnings, timber gazebos or innovative giant umbrellas, which are fitted with heaters and lighting.
Based on the results the measures will be rolled out across the entire estate.
Mr Andrea said: "This is a challenging but exciting role. There's no doubt that if we respond quickly, the ban can present licensees with a great business opportunity to capitalise on growth areas such as food and protect the health of their staff and customers."