Despite the all-pervading gloomy economic backdrop, Andrew Andrea is in cheerful form.

The Marston’s CEO has just published a full year trading update which sees the pub operator return to normalised trading, after the bruising years of the pandemic.

While the pub company was 1% down in like-for-like sales in 2022, due to the early impact of Omicron, in the final 10 weeks the year, like-for-like sales were 3% up on 2019 and 4% on 2021.

One obvious cause for optimism is the World Cup, with like-for-like drink sales up 50% during the two England games compared to 2021.

Despite the controversy over hosts Qatar, and scepticism over the timing of a winter tournament, Andrea is eagerly awaiting Saturday’s quarter-final against France – and is hoping for extra time and the additional trading opportunity this offers.

“In net terms, we are seeing similar benefits on match days then we would see in the summer months,” he tells MCA.

“On a hot sunny day your pub would be busy, but if you get a hot sunny day with a with a sports fixture, you get a bit of a kicker.

“You’ve got to remember, the last week of November is normally a fallow month for pubs.

“I think this Saturday will be brilliant.

“The only crinkle - though in net terms it will still be a benefit - is if we get carried away and we actually get through to the final, that Sunday at 3am is typically quite strong for alternative family Christmas meals. I don’t think they’ll be cancelled, I think there will be rebooked if England get to the final because the final will clearly dominate.”

Football aside, Andrew is equally sanguine about general trading in the face of inflation and cost of living pressures.

In fact, he says the pub company has seen remarkably little impact so far.

He credits this to the strong position of the pub as a place for “affordable socialising”, as well as one that delivers great experiences for guests.

“It’s holding up pretty well at the moment,” he explains. “If I look at October and November what I’ve been really pleased with is there’s resilience in both drinking out and eating out, despite the fact that higher energy bills are coming through, inflation is embedding itself.

“People are still wanting to go out and drink and eat out, and our insight at the moment continues to suggest that they want to carry on doing that, going out, having an affordable treat. Going to the pub is still high on the on the to do list.”

Alongside being competitive on price, Andrea says customers are happier with the experience at Marston’s pubs than they were a year ago, according to insights from

With a cold snap coming, pubs also have the advantage of being a warm place to be outside the home. Andrea even suggests with rising consumer food price inflation, pub meals could be closing the gap and becoming more economical than home cooking.

“Pubs are a good place to go and go and eat and drink without having to have the heating on.

“We have customers commenting that if you wanted to cook a roast dinner at home, it’s actually cheaper to go out to the pub now because the ingredients to buy a joint and so on are more expensive.”

Many Marston’s customers are still opting for premium drinks rather than entry level, despite cost of living pressures.

But while national newspapers report on the ever spiralling cost of a pint, for many Marston’s pubs, the £7 pint is still a way off.

“A lot of our pubs, particularly as we traverse north, we still offer three points for a tenner.

“We’re not trying to be the cheapest, but I think the psyche of that price is quite important.

“The comfort blanket of a cheaper drink is there, if they need to it means that customers can trade up and down.”