GREENE King has toasted record Christmas Day takings after more families chose to eat out on the big day.
The group, which is behind pub and restaurant brands Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne, sold 448,000 Christmas meals during December, with takings up 6.8% to £2.7m on December 25 after setting a record last year.
It opened 85% of its managed pubs, restaurants and hotels on Christmas Day, helping it deliver a 2.8% jump in like-for-like sales in the six weeks to January 6. It came up against strong comparatives after sales grew 8% in the same period last year.
Chief executive Rooney Anand said: “Pubs continue to play a vital role for customers, families and communities across the UK during the festive period, especially in this difficult financial environment.”
But he warned that he did not expect conditions for consumers to improve in 2013. The group, which operates 2,300 pubs, restaurants and hotels, said its retail business, which also includes the brands Old English Inns and Eating Inn, saw like-for-like sales jump 3.7% in the 36 weeks to January 6, driven by food sales, which were 4.1% higher on a like-for-like basis.
Shares were up today after the group said it was on track to meet market expectations for a 7% jump in profits to around £162m.
Greene King said its core own-brewed volumes in its brewing and brands division fell 2% in the period, but its two leading ales Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen were both ahead of last year following a marketing campaign.
The group also added 22 sites to its retail estate in the half year. It said underlying earnings from its tenanted pubs division were up 4.2%, after it disposed of 65 non-core sites in the period.
Simon French, an analyst at Panmure Gordon stockbrokers, said: “The group does not expect conditions for the UK consumer to improve in 2013 and we share this caution.
“However the group’s well positioned managed pub estate and resilient tenanted and brewing operations means it is well positioned to maintain its current growth rates.”