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Gloucestershire Business News

Drinker numbers drop over Christmas for All Bar One, Harvester and Toby Carvery owner

Pub and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers has revealed that the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant and caution over social distancing caused drinker numbers to plummet in the run up to Christmas.

The company behind brands including All Bar One, Miller & Carter, Toby Carvery, Harvester, O'Neill's and Sizzling Pubs reported a reduction in customer activity and disruption caused by the isolation of employees due to the virus last month.

CEO Phil Urban told shareholders the group had seen "encouraging" performance for most of the last quarter, but had lost its momentum due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Like-for-like sales fell 1.5 per cent for the 15 weeks to January 8 when compared to the same period in 2019, but positive food sales growth largely offset a reduction in drink sales.

Over the last four weeks, like-for-like sales dropped 10.2 per cent. Drink sales fell by 13.8 per cent over the past seven weeks.

Mr Urban said: "This first quarter performance represents a robust performance given the challenges the industry faces from the rapid spread of the new variant both in terms of reduced consumer activity and disruption caused by the inevitable isolation of team members.

"Experience shows that as restrictions ease, and confidence returns, our business is able to swiftly recover.

"To that end, whilst we expect activity to continue to be adversely impacted in the short term, we are encouraged by the latest data on the Omicron variant which we believe will boost consumers' confidence to return to pubs and restaurants allowing us to regain the momentum which was beginning to build, supported by the benefits from our new set of Ignite initiatives."

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