The Birmingham-based operator of more than 1,700 pubs under brands including Harvester, Toby Carvery, O'Neills and All Bar One included close to four weeks of enforced closure in its most recent half year results - which also saw M&B run up a £51m operating loss compared to a £140m profit in 2019.
Group revenue was also hit by the ongoing pandemic with the company posting £1.039bn compared to £1.186bn the previous year.
Yet prior to Boris Johnson calling last orders in Britain’s pubs on 20 March, M&B reported 0.9% like-for-like sales growth while cash flow more than doubled versus the same point in 2019 from £23m to £58m.
"The business was performing very well before the enforced closure in response to Covid-19, building on the strengths of our estate of mainly freehold properties, our diversified and well-loved brands and our team's industry leading operational skills,” Phil Urban, M&B chief executive, commented.
“These assets, coupled with our early experience of re-opening in Germany, give us a clear plan for reopening and ensure that we are well placed to continue to bring people and communities together and to keep M&B at the forefront of the eating and drinking-out market."
Pubs and restaurants opened in some German states in May, giving Mitchells & Butlers’ early experience of post-lockdown trading under German brands such as bar chain Alex.
Taking great care
In response to the Government’s confirmation that pubs and bars in England can resume trading from 4 July, M&B confirmed that 90% of its sites - more than 1,500 pubs - were on course to be reopened by the end of the month.
“We are taking great care to make sure that the safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues remains at the very forefront of all of our re-opening preparations,” a statement explained.
“Given the different sizes and shapes of our businesses the one metre plus guidelines will allow us to more effectively plan how we will operate our popular bars, pubs and restaurants.”
The statement added that across each of M&B’s brands - Harvester, Toby Carvery, All Bar One, Miller & Carter, Premium Country Pubs, Sizzling Pubs, Stonehouse, Vintage Inns, Browns, Castle, Nicholson's, O'Neill's and Ember Inns – would be among those accepting bookings in England from the 4 July onwards for up to six guest
As previously reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA), in a financing update on Friday 12 June, M&B revealed that additional financial support from HSBC UK and Santander UK would provide facilities totalling £250m until 31 December 2021 – safeguarding approximately 45,000 jobs.
The operator clarified that this comprises the extension of its existing £150m facilities in addition to £100m in additional finance under the Government-backed Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS).