M&B to push for separate smoking rooms in pubs

01 December 2004 by
M&B to push for separate smoking rooms in pubs

Pubs giant Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) intends to lobby the Government to change its plans for an all-out smoking ban in outlets that serve food.

Harvester: food-led
M&B, owner of some 2,000 pubs including the All Bar One and Harvester chains, instead wants separate smoking and non-smoking rooms. It said: "We welcome the Government's proposal for a staged approach with four years to prepare and a wide consultation process." But the company added: "The enforced specialisation between food and smoking risks commercially incentivising more pubs than the White Paper currently anticipates to remove food and retain smoking throughout, other than at the bar. "As a result, we believe it is in the interests of the pub industry to constructively engage with the Government during the consultations to pursue improvements to the current proposal, including permitting clearly segregated smoking and non-smoking rooms within pubs." M&Bs proposal came as the company released annual results for the year to 25 September showing sales up by 3.7% to £1.56b. Profit before tax and exceptional items fell by 7.5% to £184m, but operating profit was up by 3.6% to £285m. Chief executive Tim Clarke commented: "We have achieved strong growth in both food and drink sales and significant market share gains." The sales growth was driven by the performance of M&Bs pub-restaurants and local pubs in residential areas, which accounts for 70% of the estate. But the group said the high-street pubs market, particularly the late-night bars sector, remained tough. Like-for-like sales at M&Bs pubs and restaurants in residential areas grew by 6.6%, against a rise of just 3.4% on the high street, giving a overall rise in like-for-likes of 5.6%. Drinks-led pubs and bars saw sales increase by 4.6% to £913m and operating profit rise by 1.7% to £180m. The Sizzling Pub Company and Ember Inns chains had performed particularly strongly, the company said. In pub-restaurants, sales rose by 4.4% to £641m and operating profit by 8.3% to £104m. Food now represents nearly 30% of sales, against just 11% a decade ago. Average weekly sales per pub are £15,200, an 8% increase over the year. Productivity gains had helped offset cost increases such as the 7% rise in the National Minimum Wage, M&B said. Volumes served per staff hour worked increased by 3%. Buy this week's *Caterer* magazine for more industry news and analysis
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