Britain's Mitchells & Butlers pub group, in which Irish billionaires John Magnier and JP McManus have a significant stake, said on Thursday that sales over the past two months have been above pre-pandemic levels, as customers thronged to its hundreds of pubs and restaurants after months-long restrictions.
The more than a century old pub operator’s sales in the most recent eight weeks were 104 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels, supported by pent-up demand, while year-to-date sales were at 45 per cent of 2019 levels.
Mitchells, which has 1,700 pubs and restaurants and owns many brands including Harvester, Toby Carvery and All Bar One, had said that sales in city centres continued to suffer as people were yet to return to the offices in full swing.
"We are still seeing volatility and a contrast between sales performance at food-led and wet-led brands, highlighting the continuing uncertainty," said chief executive Phil Urban said.
The upturn in business at the pub group contrasts sharply with its position at the start of the year when it told shareholders it was burning through £30 million-£35 million (€35 million-€40 million) every four weeks during the British lockdown.
At that time, the group had a cash balance of just £113 million (€130.7 million) having drawn down all facilities available to it and faced a £51 million (€59 million) interest payment on its debt in March. A €405 million fundraising exercise launched at that time was seen as “critical for the continued operation of the group and its immediate financial stability”.
Smaller rivals Fuller Smith & Turner and City Pub Group also pointed to improving trends on Thursday after a turbulent period for the hospitality industry, as the pandemic shuttered venues for prolonged periods.