McMullen & Son, the Hertfordshire brewer and pub operator, has reported a marginal drop in profits after England's smoking ban and poor summer weather last year. The privately-owned group, which is majority controlled by the founding family, saw pre-tax profits drop 1% to £7.3m on sales up 5.8% to £55.2m in the 12 months to 29 September 2007. The company said like-for-like sales at its managed houses grew 3.8%, with alcohol sales up 1.7% and food up 10.0%. McMullen said like-for-likes had been running ahead at 5% in the first three quarters of the year, before market conditions changed. Peter Furness-Smith, managing director, told M&C: "We were really flying up to the nine-month mark and then, like everyone else, we were caught up in the smoking ban, which combined with the poor summer, did peg things back." Overall sales were lifted by the development of two existing pubs plus the acquisition of the seventh Baroosh bar - in Chelmsford - and the White Horse at Burnham Green. Of current conditions, Furness-Smith said: "The real thing that is hitting us at the moment is rising costs. "But we are well financed, with virtually no debt and all freehold property, and the key thing that we are doing is investing in our property and in training, so feel we will probably weather the storm better than many others, and are cautiously optimistic." At an operating level, profits fell 10.9% to £6.7m.