Owner of Scotland's oldest pub cheers rising sales

Edinburghs Sheep Heid Inn is reputedly Scotlands longest-serving pub. Picture: Scott Louden
Edinburghs Sheep Heid Inn is reputedly Scotlands longest-serving pub. Picture: Scott Louden
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Mitchells & Butlers, the pub and restaurant giant behind All Bar One and scores of well-known Scottish watering holes including Edinburgh’s historic Sheep Heid Inn, has returned to profit growth in the first half.

The group, which also owns the Browns and Miller & Carter chains, said adjusted operating profit rose to £151 million in the 28 weeks to 13 April, up from £141m a year earlier. Revenue nudged up to £1.19 billion, while like-for-like sales rose an appetising 4.1 per cent.

The firm, whose other brands include the O’Neill’s pub chain and Toby Carvery, said its focus on efficiency was responsible for the improved performance.

Chief executive Phil Urban said: “This is a strong set of results, demonstrating that we continue to build momentum in the business, delivering sales growth, sustained market outperformance and a return to operating profit growth.

“This strong performance comes from the progress we continue to make in our three priority areas: building a more balanced business; instilling a more commercial culture; and driving an innovation agenda.

“Success in this highly competitive market is dependent on a continuous stream of improvements, and that is what we are delivering with many small advances at site level driving significant benefits in aggregate. We will maintain our focus on these initiatives which we believe are transforming the business.”

Updating on recent trading, the group said like-for-like sales were up 3.8 per cent in the last 33 weeks, which includes the movement of Easter into the second half. It cautioned that current trading remained tough amid economic and political uncertainty, but added that it was confident of its ability to outperform the market.

Reflecting on its half-year performance, the group told investors: “Our trading performance has strengthened with like-for-like sales continuing to outperform the market, which grew by circa 1 per cent in the period.

“Both our performance and that of the market benefits from the absence of snow which impacted the prior year and which is partly balanced by the movement of Easter into the second half this year.

“The net operating profit impact of these movements is a benefit of £5m. The drivers of our outperformance are the continued focus on enhancing the quality of our estate through investment and the ‘Ignite 2’ initiatives which have delivered improved trading performances across all of our brands.”

It added: “Our uninvested estate, of 1,350 sites, which has not received investment in the last year has also performed well with like-for-like sales growth of 2.1 per cent in the first half, demonstrating that capital investment is not the sole driver of improved trading performance.”

Other famous pubs in its Edinburgh portfolio include Deacon Brodies Tavern and the Kenilworth.