Posting its half-year results in the 28 weeks to April, the pub company reported that food and drink transactions were up 0.8% and 2.3% respectively.
Volumes of food fell by 4.8% and drink by 1.8% reflecting the impact of the increasing premiumisation across its sites, the business said.
Innovative approaches included the introduction of a low-calorie Prosecco in a quarter of its estate, the development of vegan dishes, pop-up and partnership opportunities with firms such as Deliveroo, and a key focus on plans to swell the Miller & Carter steak format from 67 sites to 100 by the end of the year, it said.
“During the half year, we have generated sustained sales growth while consistently out-performing the market,” explained M&B’s chief executive Phil Urban. “This comes from the good progress we have made in our three priority areas: building a more balanced business; instilling a more commercial culture; and driving an innovation agenda.”
The company also attributed "seemingly small adjustments" such as digital developments to increase the level of online bookings to around 90,000 per week via its own and third-party partners, as making a "significant difference".
It also plans to build on a trial of alternative payment devices, by testing ways for guests to order at tables later this year.
However, Urban cautioned that margins had been adversely impacted by increased costs from “wage inflation, property costs and exchange rate movements.”
“In order to partially mitigate these costs, we have been working hard to encourage our guests to trade up and increase spend per head for a more premium experience while challenging our general managers to run their businesses as cost effectively as possible,” he insisted.
Overall, we are pleased with the turnaround in our sales trajectory and relative performance against the market. In a challenging cost and consumer environment, we will continue to focus on our three priority areas.”
M&B also stated it was forging ahead with the conversion of sites into Stonehouse Pizza & Carvery format, now in 72 sites, and Harvester Feel Good Dining concept – currently in 55 sites.
Last month, The Morning Advertiser reported how Harvester was targeting vegans and vegetarians with a new menu, including its first vegan dessert.