Mitchells & Butlers plans to open chain of 'quick change' concept bars

LONDON - Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), owner of the All Bar One and O'Neill's pub brands, is to break with its tradition of operating homogeneous chains by opening a series of concept bars.

The pub trade has struggled in recent years, with figures from the British Beer and Pub Association showing that 36 pubs in the UK close every week. M&B hopes to counter the trend with bars whose name, fascia and interior can be adapted to reflect fashion.

Although the bars will form part of a chain, each will have a unique name and distinct look to give the impression that they are independent.

The company is currently trialling two concept bars ahead of a planned rollout in 2009. M&B has handed a strategic planning brief to direct and digital marketing agency Elvis Communications.

Last month, M&B announced it would be scrapping its dividend to help reduce its £2.7bn debt. The firm, which also own chains such as Harvester restaurants, experienced a 13.5% fall in pre-tax profits in September.

Punch Taverns has also announced that it will not be paying a final dividend. The company said the first full year of the ban on smoking in public places had caused a decline in custom and financial losses.

In the past 10 years, M&B has shifted the strategy of its properties and made them more food-oriented in an attempt to increase footfall. This includes Harvester, which is positioned as a family restaurant, and upmarket chain Browns. The brewer also owns the Scream pub chain.



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