A record Easter but tough half for Greene King

Pub group Greene King said it suffered tougher trading in the second half of its financial year, despite record sales at Easter and Valentine’s Day.

The Bury St Edmunds-based firm, which runs around 1,900 pubs and restaurants, said in an update that like-for-like sales edged up 0.4 per cent in the 51 weeks to April 26, hindered by strong comparatives against last year and the impact of new drink driving legislation in Scotland.

The new laws came into force before Christmas and limit drivers to 50mg of alcohol in blood, down from 80mg and making it lower than the rest of the UK.

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Greene King, which owns the Hungry Horse and Loch Fyne brands, said without this law like-for-like sales would have been 0.8 per cent higher.

It added that during the Easter period it achieved record sales with 800,000 diners over the long holiday weekend, with same-store sales up 2.4 per cent.

On Valentine’s Day, it secured record sales of £4m, boosted by Prosecco volumes up 150 per cent and shifting over 3,600 oysters at its Loch Fyne outlets.

Greene King, like a number of pub companies, targets families, women and food sales, rather than traditional single male customers.

A decision from watchdog the Competition & Markets Authority is expected by next Monday on the £774m takeover of Spirit Pub Company to create a firm with more than 3,000 managed and leased pubs.