Pubs operator JD Wetherspoon reported a 24 percent boost in profit on Friday for a year during which it has experimented with restricting smoking ahead of a national ban.
Wetherspoon alarmed investors last year by banning smoking in some of its pubs, but tight cost control and a broader range of drinks at its city centre pubs more than offset the negative impact from its non smoking pubs.
It's ironic that in the year where we opened all the non smoking pubs we ended up with record results, which I don't think we would have predicted ourselves, Chief Executive John Hutson told Reuters.
Profit before tax was 58.4 million pounds in the year to July 30, compared with estimates in a range of 53 million to 57 million in a Reuters poll. Wetherspoon said its new financial year had started well.
We converted 17 pubs in England and Wales to non smoking in the first half of the period under review and their sales declined by 6.5 percent on a like for like basis in the second half of the year, said the group.
But the pubs that were converted to non smoking earlier fared better.
Overall, we believe that sales started to improve in those pubs after the initial 12 months, but remain below the levels of two years ago, it said.
In Wetherspoon's 39 pubs in Scotland, like for like sales fell 0.3 percent in May, June and July, following a Scottish smoking ban on March 26. But pub operating profits fell by 11 percent.
Wetherspoon shares closed at 4.50 pounds on Thursday, valuing the group at around 690 million pounds.