Food sales are on the up at award-winning pub chain JD Wetherspoon while its infamous cheap drinks have proved less popular.
The company, which was named Branded Pub Chain of the Year at last month's Publican Pub Food Awards, increased food sales by 14 per cent in November - but its drinks sales remained static.
In a trading statement the company's chairman Tim Martin predicted a drop in profits of about £6m caused by difficult market conditions.
The increase in the company's food sales last month has been attributed to new menu innovations in its 600-strong estate.
Mr Martin said: "The rise in food sales is encouraging." He said the sudden growth in food sales could be put down, at least in part, to his pubs' extended opening hours. In October JD Wetherspoon outlets began serving breakfast from 10am even though most of the pubs cannot serve alcohol until 11am.
"We've also seen an increase in the number of outlets with children's certificates, boosting sales of family meals," Mr Martin added.
Because the company's food sales carry less profit than its drink sales, the increased figures do not improve the company's overall profits.
Instead, the shift towards food and away from drink has sent the company back to the drawing board to re-negotiate prices on the 50 openings it plans for the current financial year.
JD Wetherspoon built its reputation on cheap drink but over the last few years its food sales have also been increasing steadily. Last year they showed a 20 per cent like for like increase.
The company has also increased its use of promotions, such as its curry club offer which sells a pint or a glass of wine and a curry for £4.99. The promotions have proved to be hugely popular and curry club sales are up 110 per cent on last year.
The company intends to continue to grow the food offering and because of its increased sales it is currently investigating introducing more fresh food as well as more fashionable, adventurous offerings such as Pacific Rim cookery.
JD Wetherspoon impressed the judges at this year's Pub Food Awards because it successfully targeted its food offering at its customers and offered good quality, value-for-money pub grub.
JD Wetherspoon: pub prices set to fall (29 November 2002)