British pubs group Marston's reported full year pretax profit at the upper end of expectations boosted by increased food sales as cash-strapped customers chose to treat themselves to meals at their local pub.

Marston's, which said it had sold more than 26 million meals over the course of the year at an average price of 6.10 pounds, said food sales at pubs open more than a year were up 5 percent in the year to October 1 and now contribute 42 percent of total sales.

Customers are looking for affordable treats, and our focus on value, service and quality in a traditional pub environment has proved successful, Chief Executive Ralph Findlay said in a statement on Wednesday.

The company, which runs over 2,000 pubs across Britain, said its underlying pretax profit rose by 9.4 percent to 80.4 million pounds.

Market expectations had ranged between 76 million and 81 million pounds, with the average forecast standing at 79.8 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S data.

Marston's, which also brews Pedigree and Hobgoblin beer, said it had made an encouraging start to its new fiscal year.

Sales at its managed pubs open more than a year were up 3 percent in the eight weeks to November 26. In its tenanted pubs, it said profit trends were improving gradually and were estimated to have risen by 2 percent.

Rival Mitchells & Butlers , which owns Harvester and All Bar One, said earlier in November it was confident it could overcome the tough consumer environment in 2012 after mild weather boosted trade.

Shares in Marston's, which have outperformed the FTSE All Share Travel & Leisure Index <.FTASX5750> by 9 percent over the last year, closed on Tuesday at 93.5 pence, valuing the business at 525 million pounds.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Rhys Jones)