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The owner of All Bar One and Harvester has said strong Christmas trading helped drive a rise in sales in the first quarter. Mitchells & Butlers said like-for-like sales in the four weeks to January 7 came in at 4.7%. Over the first three months of the year, comparable sales rose 1.7%.

In November, the group saw annual profits drop by a quarter and warned over a hit from the Brexit-hit pound and soaring wage costs.

Boss Phil Urban struck a more positive note on Friday, saying: “This is an encouraging performance, building on positive momentum from earlier in the year.

“We are starting to benefit from the many initiatives we continue to put in place, which gives us confidence in successfully delivering our strategic priorities going into the new year and a performance in line with the board’s expectations.”

Mitchells is in the process of overhauling its pub estate, targeting more upmarket brands. The group has launched Sizzling Pizza & Carvery and Sizzling Pub & Grill in an attempt to fight back against new competition in the eating out sector.

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