Managed operator Mitchells & Butlers is to extend its innovative leased franchise scheme with a further 25 pubs converted to the programme. The extension of the project follows the successful switch of an initial 52 pubs from managed to private lease operations. The company said the pilot exercise, launched last summer, had been a success and a long-term review was likely to take place at the financial year-end in September. M&B is still evaluating the scheme but has already "learned a great deal" from switching the pubs to operation by private individuals. It decided to convert the first 50 pubs to lease after identifying houses that were struggling to remain effective under direct management. Many of the first 50 pubs have been leased by entrepreneurial operators with a track record in the gastro-pub field. Director of franchise development Peter Thomas said: "Many [hosts] are bringing new ideas and individual business flair to these pubs." A number of pubs in the first block of 50 were O'Neill's branded outlets that are now being operated by lessees on a franchise basis.