Filling in the day parts is “critical” for Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) and the group still has a “lot more to do” to maximise opportunities outside peak trading times, chief executive Alistair Darby told the Numis Travel & Leisure conference today.

He said M&B was looking at “all sorts of ways” to exploit day trading opportunities. Darby pointed to the £3.99 breakfast deal at Toby Carvery, which he said has been “astonishingly important” to the on-going success of the brand.

He said the day part has been “under-utilised” and pointed out that in the case of the Toby breakfast, the new offer did not require any more “kit”.

Darby said the day-part analysis remains “absolutely crucial” particularly as trade is polarising “ever more towards the weekend”.

“We’ve all got pubs that have got space in them early part of the week so it’s critical, there’s a lot more to do with that.”

Darby said M&B is “still in the pack” vis-a-vis its peers, as it was one year ago at last year’s Numis conference.“I don’t think we could honestly say we’re ahead of the pack. None of our metrics would confirm that. There’s still a lot of work to be done, for sure.”However, he pointed to progress that has been made in alternating the culture of hierarchy in the business.

“The challenge for us is ensuring that you don’t have an overburdening central hierarchy. We’ve cut our hierarchy back a lot at head office. We’ve done a lot of work on culture and getting people to let go and stop thinking that people out in pubs are incapable of making decisions.

“I think we’ve made progress on that. I think the business is much more focused towards the front end of out business than it was. Are we there yet? No. I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

Darby also stressed the importance of its guest database, pointing out that a request for customers to take a picture of the Harvester salad bar and email it back resulted in 6,000 photos being sent.