Shepherd Neame said trading levels were “above expectation” during its first week of business since pubs were allowed to reopen outside.
The company opened 200 pub gardens on 12 April, accounting for two thirds of its estate. The rest will reopen in May.
Chief executive Jonathan Neame said: “Many customers have returned to our pubs in the first week to enjoy great hospitality in a relaxed and safe environment. Although it is early days, trade levels so far have been above expectation.
“We can now move forward to focus again on our core operations. Our teams did an excellent job last summer. The experience our customers received then exceeded their expectations, and the trading levels we enjoyed exceeded ours.”
Mr Neame said there is “significant pent-up demand” in the economy.
“The consumer savings ratio is at high levels, and all indications are that the demand for events, for festivals, for live sport, for going out for a meal and for socialising with friends is as strong as ever.
“Furthermore, with the ongoing restrictions in place on international travel, most people will choose to holiday in the UK this year. As a result, we believe that our recovery will be strong through late summer and autumn 2021.”
He noted that there are still many challenges to face before the pandemic is over, and there is a long road to full financial recovery, but added that “we can now say with a degree of certainty that that recovery will come”.
Half-year results up until the end of December show the business suffered an operating loss of £3.6m on sales down 30% to £55m.