Restaurants and pubs group Mitchells & Butlers
The company, whose chains include Harvester, Toby Carvery and All Bar One, said it was confident of further growth in the year ahead.
M&B said Thursday sales at restaurants and pubs open more than a year grew by 4.4 percent in the 17 weeks to January 21.
Market expectations had ranged between growth of 2 percent and 3.5 percent, with the average forecast standing at 2.6 percent, according to a Reuters poll of five analysts.
The firm said like-for-like sales were up 6.5 percent in the nine weeks to January 21.
M&B, which has around 1,600 restaurants and pubs across Britain, said trading in January had been more subdued but consistent with the underlying like-for-like sales trend first noted in July last year of around 1 percent growth.
The group was the subject of two rejected bid approaches from its biggest shareholder, billionaire currency trader Joe Lewis, last year. Lewis, who holds a stake of over 25 percent, aborted a 230 pence per share offer, valuing the business at around 940 million pounds in October.
Under takeover rules, he is prohibited from making another approach until April this year.
M&B has been the subject of boardroom upheaval, having gone through six chairmen over the past two years and has been without a permanent chief executive since Adam Fowle departed last March.
Industry veteran Bob Ivell, a former managing director of Scottish & Newcastle's managed pubs division, is currently acting as executive chairman and leading the search for a new
The firm, whose annual shareholder meeting takes place later Thursday in Birmingham, said good progress was being made to appoint a new CEO and to strengthen the board with additional non-executive directors.
However, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which represents about 20 percent of M&B's shareholders, has issued a 'red top' alert on the company, its strongest possible warning about governance concerns, singling it out as the only FTSE-350 firm which currently has no independent non-executive directors.
British corporate governance watchdog PIRC, which advises institutional investors, has called on its members to vote against the re-election of non-executives Doug Evans and Douglas McMahon, representatives of Lewis, who also owns Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur.
Shares in M&B closed Wednesday at 258.6 pence, valuing the business at 1.06 billion pounds.
(Reporting by Matt Scuffham and James Davey; editing by Neil Maidment)