The Hertfordshire-based Oakman Inns and Restaurants enjoyed a good Christmas, with like-for-like sales up 30.45% for the four weeks ending January 2012.
Oakman, which is run by former Whitbread executive Peter Borg-Neal and has six sites - including its subsidiary, the British Larder - also had its best-ever trade for New Year's, Eve with takings of £68,500 across the six sites.
The newly-opened Blue Boar, Witney, opened five days into the trading period but still took just over £140,000 net of VAT in its first 23 days' trading.
Meanwhile, the Kings Arms, Berkhamsted, set a new company record by taking £63,400 net of VAT in a single week.
Borg-Neal said: "Given the soft comparables driven by last year's adverse weather, we would have been upset with like-for-like growth of less than 7% or 8% in the un-invested estate. However, to have achieved nearly 17% was well beyond our expectations as was the overall like-for-like growth of over 30%. As a result, we are absolutely delighted. We were also very pleased to achieve record margins which have been driven by our increasing operational maturity as well as enhanced purchasing power.
"The high operational gearing of our concept means that we need to achieve high sales volume to gain our desired return on investment. Our strategy of very choosy site selection, bold development schemes and employing great people is delivering just that.
"While we expect continued uncertainty in the trading environment in the coming year, we do believe that many operators will prosper. Our view is that the market will polarise further between those customers seeking quality and those who are price led. The winners will be those businesses that have clarity about who they are trying to target. We are firmly focused on the quality end of the smart casual-dining market and are very comfortable in that space.
"We had put our acquisition process on hold while we completed our major investment in The Blue Boar, Witney. We are now ready to acquire another site and expect to make an offer within the next few days. Our aspirations remain to open two or three great sites a year ensuring that the pace of our expansion remains comfortably within our operational and financial capabilities."
By Neil Gerrard
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