Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), the managed pub operator, has this morning reported a 2.6% increase in like-for-like sales for the 52 weeks to 24 September 2011 across its retained estate, driven by a 4.8% rise in food sales, which are the group’s largest income line. The group, which again made no comment regarding the search for a new chief executive, said that total revenues across its retained estate were up 4.9% for the year to £1,762m, with food sales up 7.8% and drink sales up 2.3%. Retained estate ebitda grew 1.8% to £398m. Total group revenues, which includes the 333 non-core pubs it sold to Stonegate, Hollywood Bowl and lodges, were down 9.3% to £1,796m for the year, with operating profit before exceptional items down 8.7% to £294m. Pre-tax profit stood at £156m, down 7.7% on last year. Net profit was up in the year to £125m, against a loss of £84m in 2010, which was hit by a one-off writedown of £304m. M&B said that food sales now represented just over 48% of its total sales. It estimated that nearly three quarters of its sales related to guests using its businesses to eat. The group said that food like-for-like sales were mainly driven by increasing food spend per head with the number of meals sold, slightly lower. Drink like-for-like sales were up 1.0% with volumes down, partly it said on the back of increasing duty costs that have led to higher average drink prices. M&B said there were a number of inflationary cost increases during the year which were partially offset by “efficiencies in purchasing and waste reduction”. It said that as a result of these cost pressures, operating margins was down 0.7 percentage points 16.3%. The company said that it had experienced like-for-like sales growth of 2% in the first eight weeks of its current financial year, driven by a 3% rise in drink sales. However, it warned that the consumer environment remained challenging and that it expects inflationary cost pressures to persist in the new financial year, especially from energy, duty and food. Bob Ivell, executive chairman, said: “This is a resilient set of results despite a challenging year with a difficult consumer environment, board changes and a takeover approach. M&B is a good business and our ambition is to make it a great business. We have a number of initiatives in place to do this including the simplification of our central support functions to enhance business performance. Overall, this gives us confidence in successfully growing the business in the year ahead.” The group opened 53 new sites in the year, slightly ahead of its target of 50. These included 21 of the 22 Ha Ha Bar & Grill sites acquired in November 2010, 16 new sites on leisure and retail parks and 16 other, mainly freehold sites. During the year it also converted 48 of it existing sites to its expansion brands.