The 3Sixty Restaurants group has plans for six new Ego in a Pub sites, having recorded a 45% rise in EBITDA for the year to 31 March 2015.
Chief executive James Horler warned that the casual-dining sector was getting "congested", but that the group was "on to a good thing" with its expanding Ego brand.
Horler confirmed to The Caterer that the group had net cash of £1.9m on the balance sheet, and was poised to continue its expansion of the Ego in a Pub format, which was so far trading ahead of expectations at its Stockton Brook, Staffordshire, location and its Ackworth, Yorkshire pub, the latter of which opened 10 weeks ago.
The group expects to open five to six new Ego in a Pub sites across the Midlands and the North over the next three years, he said. The expansion does appear to have been slower than initially predicted, however, given that in February 2014 the group announced plans to open 15 sites by this year.
Despite this, Horler told The Caterer: "We are in a very strong position. We have hardly any debt, so paid hardly any interest this year. We had a strong EBITDA, no outside debt with a bank, and we're sitting on a pile of cash."
Commenting on Ego, he said: "The Ego in a Pub format is trading miles ahead of expectations. The brand is big on community behaviour. The format works and typically the rental levels are better. We can work with the community, set up around 'chimney pots' - residential areas â' and we also have parking, which is key to success in these locations. "We are actively seeking properties and opportunities to put Ego in pubs."
The Ego brand currently has 10 sites, including Liverpool, Heswall, Sheffield and Kenilworth, while Californian salad, pizza and cocktail brand Rocket operates across five locations including four in London and one in Nottingham. There are no plans to expand Rocket for the time being.
Speaking about the state of the restaurant industry in general, Horler said: "The casual-dining space is getting quite busy and congested. But we've been successful, and I think that we're on to something with this brand. I'm confident that we can get to a critical mass in the next two-three years."
The group was not expecting to need outside investment for its expansion, with each site requiring about £350,000 to open, he said.