Marston’s chief executive Ralph Findlay has told MCA that he sees further opportunities to buy packages of wet-led community sites but that the company’s main focus is building pubs with lodges attached.

Findlay was speaking on the back of yesterday’s full-year trading update and the announcement that it had acquired 15 former Mitchells & Butlers pubs from Aprirose.

He said they would fit into the Taverns estate and expected investment to drive a significant improvement in their performance.

On the wider strategy, Findlay said that while the group continued to transition away from value-led offers, food remained a focus and premiumisation a key trend.

He said he did not expect to trial any new formats, with the focus remaining on its Carvery, Rotisserie and Heritage (more premiumised wet-led venues) models, as well as its mass-market premium templates Firebrand and Accent.

He also took aim at the Government for its “inept” approach to the sector and reiterated calls for further support, especially around business rates reform.

On the Aprirose pubs, he said: “They are wet-led pubs and what I would call proper community pubs and fit perfectly within our Taverns business. We see these as continuing to improve the quality of our wet-led, community offer.

“This deal was opportunistic but one of the benefits of the business model we have is that operate in community pubs, food-led managed pubs, tenanted and leased pubs and the premium sector. We have the capacity to acquire all sorts of businesses, including in brewing as we showed with the Charles wells acquisition last year.

“I think there will be more opportunities over the coming months to look at things. Whether those are things we want to pursue we will have to see. Market conditions already seem to have led to an increase in the number of M&A deals to look at. If we see further opportunities like the Aprirose deal, we will be interested in those.”

On the attitude of Government, he said: “They have been completely inept when it comes to addressing business rates and acknowledging that this sector has added hundreds of thousands of employees and yet the costs of employment continue to rise. The faultlines were there four years ago but the Government has done nothing about it. There’s no sign they are doing anything about it right now.”