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Marston’s benefits from a collective rush to the pub

Pubs and restaurants group Marston's says it has enjoyed a bumper Christmas.

Chief executive Andrew Andre says the company has benefited from family get-togethers
Chief executive Andrew Andre says the company has benefited from family get-togethers

The company said it has seen festive bookings for meals ahead of the pre-pandemic period in 2019.

Chief executive Andrew Andrea said the Wolverhampton-based group, which has scores of pubs across the West Midlands, had been helped by families wanting to have big get-togethers for the festive season after missing out in the previous two Christmases.

"Booking are well up on last year, when the Omicron variant impacted our figures," he explained.

He said that the numbers of bookings were much higher this year, adding: "It is the first proper Christmas for three years for many families and they want to have larger get-togethers. Pubs are a great place to do that and our pubs are still an affordable place to go to to have Christmas fare.

"I am optimistic about the Christmas outlook for the group, Only about 40 or so of our pubs are in city or town centres and the rail strike has not really impacted us too much.

"We have seen few cancellations at our city centre venues," added Mr Andrea.

He said that office Christmas parties also saw strong booking this year.

"It is the only time whole teams are getting together during the current environment of hybrid working," he explained.

The pubs chain has also benefited from the World Cup, which saw England reach the quarter finals.

Its pubs across the West Midlands, Shropshire and Staffordshire saw a drink sales rise 50 per cent on England match days. Nationally there was a 3.7 per cent rise in at pubs, bars and restaurants, with pubs leading the way with an 8.1 per cent sales increase.

Mr Andre said that Marston's was expecting January trading to follow the usual pattern of being quieter than December, but he still expected there to be demand from customers to go out to drink and eat.

During January to March the group will be investing in getting ready for a busier spring.

Several million is to be invested on new garden furniture for pubs with gardens and a spring clean programme for the nationwide estate of 1,500 pubs.

The Bell Inn

The Bell at Tong in Shropshire has been the latest Marston's pub to be converted to its new Signature format offering a premium dining experience that is still affordable.

"The first couple of weeks trading at the Bell has been fantastic," added Mr Andrea.

He said that there were now more than 40 Signature pubs and that was going to be extended to 130 over the next three years

Mr Andrea said one of the biggest issues for Marston's is energy costs as its current fixed contracts end in March.

"We need to know what support the Government is going to give to the hospitality sector," he said.

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