Despite losses of nearly £3m for the year to March, the Celebrated Group believes it is now on track to profit from its transition into a theme restaurant company.
Chief executive Michael Bush said trading deteriorated during the second half of the year as managers were distracted by the sale of 15 AJ's roadside restaurants to Granada and the acquisition of Restaurant House, which netted the group the exclusive UK rights for the Chili's Grill and Bar concept.
Other negatives included a dispute over the lease of its JW Johnson's bar and restaurant in Manchester, the costs of introducing a new menu for the Starvin' Marvins chain, and the loss of major conference contracts at Llyndir Hall hotel, Wrexham, Clwyd, as firms moved their training schemes in-house.
Nevertheless, in April its seven-strong Starvin' Marvins chain achieved profitability for the first time, although Celebrated has suspended plans to franchise the brand until it has made a satisfactory return on investment.
The highly profitable Chili's restaurants in Cambridge and Canary Wharf, London, will be joined by outlets in Maidstone, Kent, and Basildon, Essex, by November, and Celebrated is confident it can exceed the franchise target of 11 outlets by October 2000.
In the year to 29 March, the Alternative Investment Market-listed group made a pre-tax loss of £2.96m (against a profit of £280,000 the year before) on turnover from continuing business up 26% to £5.68m.