The chief executive of Greene King today insisted that the impact of the economic slowdown on pubs had been "overblown" as the brewer and pub operator unveiled a rise in annual profits.
The company, which has around 2,500 pubs in England and Scotland, said pre-tax profit before exceptional items for the 53 weeks to 4 May rose to £142m from £139.8m the previous 12 months. Revenue increased by 5% to £960.5m.
Greene King, which owns the Loch Fyne restaurant chain, also revealed that food sales were up 31% during the year and now account for over a third of total sales.
Rooney Anand, chief executive, said the worsening economic environment has not stopped consumers from eating in pubs.
"Pub food still offers great value when you compare it to restaurants," he said. "I'm not complacent about the challenges that the economy poses for pub businesses but I think that the downturn and the impact on pubs has been overblown."
Anand said the company was confident over the long-term impact of the English smoking ban after the group's Scottish-based brewing and pub operator Belhaven, which is now into its third year of a ban, boosted operating profits by 18% last year.
Greene King also confirmed that it assessing whether to convert to Real Estate Investment Trust status but stressed that it needs to be convinced such a move would "deliver real long-term economic value".
By Daniel Thomas
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