THE owner of bar chain Pitcher and Piano is developing “independent style” pubs in a bid to tap into demand for upmarket gastro dining.

Marston’s has revamped three pubs in the Midlands and the South to create a less uniform feel and has earmarked 12 more for conversion if the project is successful.

The Pedigree and Hobgoblin brewer, which has about 2,150 pubs and bars across England and Wales, reported a 10% rise in underlying pre-tax profits of £87.8m in the year ending September 29 – but posted a bottom line loss of £135.5m after it wrote down the value of its estate. Revenues rose by 5% to £719.7m.

The group, which employs about 13,000 people, said trading had been “encouraging” since September.