Mitchells & Butlers saw like-for-like sales rise by 6% in the summer. Growth was led by suburban restaurant brands Harvester, Toby and Vintage Inns, with sales up by 7%. Average gross sales rose to £15,200 per week throughout its 2,077-strong estate. A recent company statement reported: "In the pub sector in general, there remains regulatory uncertainty over smoking and strong price competition in the high street. The M&B business is increasingly focused on the long-term growth of the informal, value-for-money, eating and drinking-out market in residential areas, where our pubs are capturing a disproportionate share." Simon Ward, M&B's director of public affairs, notes: "There is no sign of the intensity of competition abating on the high street. I don't think the situation is getting any worse, but there are no signs of any improvement. There will continue to be casualties." M&B is fortunate that it is not as exposed as some, with around 70% of its estate located away from the high street. Of the remaining 30%, 10% is in central London, which is generally not as prone to deep discounting. "I don't see how discounting can get any deeper among those that are doing it. We won't participate in bidding down it's counter productive." Ward dismisses the claim that consumers are getting bored with all branded pub operations. "You only have to look around to see brands with longevity. Harvester has been going for years and is enjoying good growth and Brown's has been around for 30 years. There is nothing to say that brands have to die as long as they keep coming up with the money." Of the future, Ward says: "There is certainly going to be more consolidation, but on what scale is difficult to predict. There could be some large transfers yet to come, it's a case of never say never." He adds: "Continually, people have predicted the number of managed houses will get smaller, but the core will survive and prosper.