Alongside its strategic review, Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) has also this morning unveiled interim results, with same outlet like-for-like sales up 0.8% for the 32 weeks to 10 May. The pub and restaurant operator said it had made “significant market-share gains” with same outlet food sales up 5.1%. Its drinks-volumes decline had been limited to a drop of 1.5% in the face of a tough trading period – and the first winter following the smoking bans in England and Wales, and with an on-trade beer market currently declining at about 9%. In its Residential pub arm same outlet like-for-like sales were up 0.8% in the 32 weeks, with food sales up 15% and drink volume declines held at 0.6%. M&B’s pub-restaurant brands, such as Harvester and Toby, performed particularly well with accelerating same outlet like-for-like sales up 3.3% in the second quarter, and up 2.0% for the period as a whole, it said. Trading was more mixed in the group’s High Street estate, with good performances at its Central London pubs and high street pubs outweighing significant trading pressure at its circuit venues. Overall same outlet like-for-like sales were up 0.3% in the 32 weeks. Of the 239 sites it bought from Whitbread, 204 sites had been converted, with average weekly sales uplifts running at approximately 19%. Of the remaining Whitbread properties, 24 had been earmarked for disposal. In the second year of the smoking ban in Scotland, trading was “very encouraging”, with same outlet like-for-like sales up 3.4% in the 32 weeks. Food sales were up 7.2% and drinks were up 2.0%. During the first half, the group’s average food prices fell 3.3%, with the average price of a meal at £5.70. Beer now accounted for 25% of sales – down from 70% 15 years ago – with the average price of a pint of standard lager at £2.23 in April. M&B said that productivity gains and tighter cost efficiency had driven operating profits up 4.3%. Net retail operating margins rose 0.7 percentage points to 16.8% despite an extra £6m in regulatory costs. Group ebitda was up 4.8% to £241m on sales, which were flat, of £995m. During the period the group raised £54m through pub disposals, on average ebitda multiples of 18 times. M&B said it had made a strong start to the second half of the year, with same outlet like-for-like sales up 3.4% in the first four weeks of its second half.