Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) chief executive Tim Clarke has claimed that the boarding up of pubs is taking place on a “considerably greater scale” than occurred in the recession of 1990-91, writes Paul Charity . Clarke claimed that beer volume declines of around 10% in the wider on-trade reflects “value and amenity” problems in the pub industry. Clarke said: “As you go around the housing estates of the Midlands and the north in particular, the scale of the boarding up in blue-collar areas is on a considerably greater scale than I remember in 1990-91. “It’s dramatic. Boarded-up pubs are a fraction of the to-let signs you see.” Clarke’s comments came as he revealed beer sales at M&B had out-performed the pub market by 7% to 8% — drink sales overall were down by 0.2% in the 10 weeks to 19 July. Food sales were up 5.1% on a like-for-like basis as customers flocked to its value-food formats — Pub Carvery (with an average main-meal price of £3.96) and Sizzling Pub Company (with an average main-meal price of £4.94). The upmarket Vintage Inns and Premium Country Dining formats were also seeing strong growth. Clarke claimed the company’s value formats were benefiting from increases in the cost of fresh food at the supermarkets. Machine income is one area where M&B is suffering with the rest of the industry — it’s down by 6% to 7%. The company added: “We expect that higher food and energy prices will intensify the cost pressures next year, although, as these prices are very volatile, the precise outlook is still unclear.”