Pub group Marston’s said strong drink sales have driven “encouraging” trading despite cost pressures facing customers.
The business, which operates 1,468 pubs and has 12,000 workers, said people are still visiting community pubs and is optimistic for an important winter period, which will include the 2022 World Cup.
Andrew Andrea, chief executive officer of the Wolverhampton-based firm, told the PA news agency the business is yet to see a change in behaviour from punters due to the cost of living.
“We are currently not seeing any discernible change in behaviour and that momentum is continuing,” he said.
“People are most likely to be assessing their big-ticket spending and still want to keep up their normal socialising, like going to the pub.
“We are in a good position going into the winter and obviously have both the World Cup and first Christmas without restrictions for three years so there is no reason why we can’t see year-on-year growth”.
Marston’s revealed on Tuesday that like-for-like sales dipped 1% over the year to October 1, compared with pre-pandemic levels.
It said this was particularly impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 in December and January.
Sales over the last 10 weeks of the year – from July 24 to October 1 – were up 4% year-on-year and 3% higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The group said growth was “predominantly driven by drink sales”, with food sales weaker amid the hot summer weather.
“People didn’t want a carvery in 35 degree heat but any negative impact in food was easily offset by strong drink trade,” Mr Andrea said.
The boss said the company has continued to find hiring kitchen staff a “challenge” but said it has not closed any kitchens as a result.
Mr Andrea said the firm is training many new recruits in both kitchens and front-of-house in order to ease staffing pressures.
Shares in Marstons were up 3.6% in early trading.