Omicron scuppers M&B's first quarter

Like-for-like sales were down 1.5% for the 15 weeks ended 8 January 2022.

Like-for-like sales were down 1.5% across the Mitchells & Butlers estate for the 15 weeks ended 8 January 2022, despite the managed pub and restaurant company beginning its financial year in growth.

Over its first eight weeks of trading, the business saw a like-for-like sales growth of 2.7% when compared to the same period in 2019, the last full, pre-Covid-19 financial year.

The latest figures, which include the benefit of the temporary reduction in the rate of VAT on food and non-alcoholic drink sales, have been impacted by Covid-related site closures and the emergence of the Omicron variant. 

As a result, over the seven weeks since the company's last update, like-for-like sales have been down 6%, with the impact of Omicron being particularly felt over the festive season, during which like-for-like sales were down 10.2%.

However, Mitchells & Butlers has reported that sales have remained stronger in suburban and food-led brands, particularly at the more premium end of the market.

The group currently has cash balances on hand of £235m, with undrawn unsecured facilities of £150m.

“This first quarter performance represents a robust performance given the challenges the industry faces from the rapid spread of the new variant both in terms of reduced consumer activity and disruption caused by the inevitable isolation of team members," says chief executive Phil Urban.

"Experience shows that as restrictions ease, and confidence returns, our business is able to swiftly recover. To that end, while we expect activity to continue to be adversely impacted in the short term, we are encouraged by the latest data on the Omicron variant, which we believe will boost consumers’ confidence to return to pubs and restaurants, allowing us to regain the momentum which was beginning to build, supported by the benefits from our new set of Ignite initiatives.”

The Mitchells & Butlers portfolio includes Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One, Miller & Carter, Premium Country Pubs, Sizzling Pubs,Stonehouse, Vintage Inns, Browns, Castle, Nicholson's, O'Neill's and Ember Inns. 

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