Marston’s trials upmarket venues

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The owner of bar chain Pitcher and Piano is developing ‘independent style’ pubs in a bid to tap into the popularity of upmarket gastro dining.

Marston’s has revamped three of its existing pubs to have a less uniform feel – including the food and drink offering – and has earmarked 12 more for conversion if the project is successful.

The Pedigree and Hobgoblin brewer, which operates around 2,150 pubs and bars across England and Wales, has completed work on pubs in Wimborne, near Bournemouth and Balsall Common, near Solihull, and is on the verge of opening a third in Birmingham.

Marston’s reported a 10 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profits of £87.8m in the year ending September 29, driven by sales in its new-build pub restaurants.

Chief executive Ralph Findlay said: “These results demonstrate resilience despite the weak economy and very poor weather during the summer.”

But the group posted a bottom line pre-tax loss of £135.5m after it wrote down the value of its estate. The group said revenues were up 5 per cent to £719.7m in the period.

Marston’s said investment in new pubs and restaurants on retail and leisure parks and main roads, had been its primary driver of growth over the last six years.

It has built 25 new pubs in 2012 and said it has plans for a further 20 to 25 next year, including its first in Scotland.

It also said ‘premium’ bar brand Pitcher and Piano had performed well in 2012, with good growth in like-for-like sales and profit.