Marston's, the pub and brewing firm behind the Pitcher & Piano chain, tasted impressive sales growth over the six months to the end of March as its food offering fed profits.
Like-for-like (LFL) sales at its managed pub network were 3.6% higher than the same period in the prior year, with food leading the way, up 3.9%.
At the time of its last update, in mid-March, the group said LFL sales in the 23 weeks to March 10th were 3.5% ahead of last year in its managed estate, so sales growth picked up a bit in the second half of March.
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Group revenue was up 7.6% to £342.1m from £317.9m the year before, comfortably ahead of the £328.5m forecast by broker Charles Stanley.
The company resisted the urge to put up prices; instead growth came from increased volumes driven by two-for-one offers.
Pre-tax profits for the period climbed 15% from the £29.2m at the interim stage of the prior year to hit £33.5m, ahead of the £30.9m forecast by Charles Stanley.
Marston's has around 1,650 tenanted and leased pubs and a further 500 managed outlets. The managed estate grew revenues to £190.4m, up 5% over last year, while the franchise network grew a whopping 14% to serve a glass-definitely-half-full £98.1m in revenues.
The Brewing operation, which makes Pedigree and Hobgoblin beers, saw turnover frothing at £53.6m, a 6.6% gain on 2010/2011.
Turning to current trading, the group said that LFL sales in its managed estates were up 2.4% year-on-year in the 32 weeks to May 12th, with LFL food sales up 2.7% and "wet" sales up 2.3% on a LFL basis.
In the same period, tenanted and franchised profits are estimated to be up 3%, while volumes of Marston's-brewed beer have also grown.
The interim dividend has been increased by 5% to 2.2p from 2.1p last year; Charles Stanley had expected the group to maintain last year's interim dividend.
Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: "We have delivered a good performance in the first half of the year against a weak consumer backdrop."
Investors seemed to agree, the shares were up 4.9% by 12:08 but are still 10% below their level 12 months ago.
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