The Business On... Ralph Findlay, Chief executive, Marston's

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The Independent Online

Starring into his pint?

Far from it. In a tough year for his industry, the pubs and brewing giant announced profits up by the best part of 5 per cent yesterday, so Mr Findlay is breaking out the bubbly.

How's he managed that?

With the F-plan.

What, the fad diet from the 80s?

Don't be silly. No, Marston's F-plan has been to concentrate on food, families, females and forty and fifty-somethings. It's all about extending the customer base that pubs have traditionally depended upon.

So has it worked?

The company's results suggest so. Sales are doing particularly well at the pubs it directly manages, including the Pitcher & Piano chain, and it has also seen a big increase in demand for its real ales, which include Ringwood and Hobgoblin.

Strong stuff. Let's hope the success doesn't go to his head.

Don't worry, colleagues describe Mr Findlay as well-balanced. But he has seen the recession as an opportunity,buying up pubs being sold by other groups, as well as building new ones.

Has he always been a barman?

No. He left Edinburgh University with a degree in geology and set his heart on a job with the British Antarctic Survey. The Falklands War put a stop to that plan and Mr Findlay drifted into a job in accountancy instead.

No question of short-changing the punters then?

Indeed. He has made a career as a numbers man, qualifying at PWC and then moving onto jobs at Bass and the food producer Geest. He joined Marston's as finance director in 1994 and got the top job in 2001.

Will he be tearing up the town following these numbers?

If so, the town in question will be Wolverhampton, where Mr Findlay lives with his wife and two daughters (Marston's was once Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries). Alternatively, he could celebrate on Saturday, at Nottingham Forest's home game with Bristol City. He's a season ticket holder there.