Mitchells & Butlers CEO Phil Urban has hailed the euphoria of customers being able to go out and mix with friends after months of lockdown.

Urban said M&B’s reopened venues had benefited from the good weather and less competition in the sector, with many still unable to trade.

He described reopening in England, as well as limited reopening in Scotland and Wales, as a “dress rehearsal” to the more important dates, in May and June.

He told Peter Martin on MCA’s The Conversation: “This is more about just getting the teams back, getting the cobwebs dusted off, we call a dress rehearsal, in readiness for opening on the 17th

“Having those businesses allowed to reopen again lifts the spirits and increases positivity, so we see it through that lens, and nothing more than. It’s all about 17th for us.”

Urban said about a third of M&B’s estate is open, with a few more to open up between now and 17th.

He added: “Obviously I’m very pleased with the way it’s gone, but I’m not kidded by the fact we have been very lucky with the weather up until now, and the fact the majority of this sector is still shut, so we’re obviously benefiting from that.

“We’re not reading too much into that, but I think all of us would have very much accepted what we’ve seen, if you’d asked us several weeks ago, we would have been delighted,

“I think it’s purely the euphoria of people coming out, delighted to be out mixing the friends and beings ‘as normal again as possible’

“I hope that continues. Obviously May 17 when everybody opens up, some of that sort of a lack of supply advantage will disappear, but I’m still sort of optimistic that consumers will want to come back and mix and have a meal indoors, because it is cold post 8 o’clock at night.”