Pubs and brewery group Greene King enjoyed record Christmas, helped by better weather than last year, and predicted further growth in the coming year despite a tough consumer environment.

The 213-year-old Suffolk-based firm, which operates 2,410 pubs, restaurants and hotels across England, Wales and Scotland, said like-for-like retail sales rose 8.2 percent in the seven weeks to 15 January, boosted by an 11.1 percent rise in food sales and a record Christmas week when sales jumped 17 percent.

It is clear that even in these difficult times, customers still look for enjoyment and some respite from the financial pressures they are facing, said Greene King Chief Executive Rooney Anand.

Britain's pubs are benefiting from increasing demand for casual dining as cash-strapped customers trade down from eating out at restaurants.

Greene King, whose brand include Hungry Horse, Old English Inns, Eating Inn and Loch Fyne Restaurants, said its overall profit, cashflow and balance sheet remained in line with expectations, but warned of tough trading conditions in 2012.

Although we expect another difficult environment for the UK consumer in 2012, we remain confident that we will continue to deliver growth and value to our shareholders, Anand said.

In December the group said it expected to create 3,000 jobs in Britain over the next three years, including 2,000 apprenticeships for young people aged between 18 and 24.

(Reporting by Philip Baillie; Editing by Paul Hoskins)