Mitchells & Butlers (M&B) is to trial a new concept in Harpenden next month, which it believes could add a second string to its bow of premium offerings, MCA has learnt.

Chief executive Phil Urban told MCA that the concept would open on the high street as The George at Harpenden – on the site of a former pub of the same name – and that it would be “a reimagining of a London eatery in suburbia”.

“The theory is that there are many people used to eating and drinking around London and when they commute back to home there aren’t many places that are similar,” he said.

The site will offer all-day trading, and will feature an open kitchen, with the menu to take cues from traditional British cuisine, but with an international feel to it, he explained, adding that the focus would be on provenance, fresh produce and freshly prepared food.

He said that in terms of the growth of the brand any further sites would be named individually, based on their location, rather than falling under an umbrella brand.

“We would expect it to make a statement,” he said, adding that dependent on its success, the focus may well go into expanding that concept. Urban explained that were it is running into problems with converting sites to Miller & Carter – if, for example, there is already another site only a few miles away – this will give it another option in terms of a premium offering.

In terms of the growth of Miller & Carter, Urban said that it could see the brand increasing from its c112 site mark to around 140-150 sites over the next couple of years, but said it was keen not to overexpose the brand or risk cannibalisation.

It is due to open its first site in Germany, in Frankfurt, next month. “In our view Miller & Carter is better than what’s in the market already. If it is successful then pick every major German city and there is your growth potential,” he said.

Urban added that M&B was currently exploring the use of dark kitchens and virtual brands, as it looked to develop its business in the delivery space. It currently has c170 sites offering delivery – Deliveroo available from All Bar One, Browns and Miller & Carter and Just Eat at Toby Carvery, Harvester and more recently at Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery, with Toby Carvery being a standout performer in terms of delivery, he said.

“We are asking ourselves is how to we get a bigger share (of the delivery market),” he said. “I think it’s the emergence of delivery only brands and dark kitchens. It is something that we are looking at. We have got 1,600 kitchens around the country not all of which are at full capacity, so we are thinking hard about that and have a couple of trials in place along those lines,” he said.

Urban said that all the business in its portfolio achieved like-for-like sales growth in the first half of the year. In addition to Miller & Carter, he said Nicholson’s and Ember Inns have continued to outperform and generate solid results, adding that M&B was delighted with the ROI it was getting from its Vintage Inns and Premium Country Pubs businesses.

Its high street pubs businesses had arguably seen the least investment of late, he explained. “We are talking about businesses that are doing ok, but are very tired, and when we are getting to those sites, and rejuvenating and refurbishing them then we are getting very strong returns,” he added.