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Fish blames slump on foot-and-mouth

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A fish restaurant chain has become the latest operator to blame last year’s foot-and-mouth outbreak for a sharp fall in turnover and pre-tax profits.

Tony Allan, chairman of the Fish restaurant group, said that foot-and-mouth and the terrorost attacks of 11 September were among the reasons for the decline in its trading in the year to 31 October 2001.

Total turnover for the group fell by more than 10% to £18.8m, compared with £21m in 2000, while pre-tax profit showed a 22.3% drop to £1.7m, against £2.2m in 2000.

Allan said that foot-and-mouth had benefited the fish chain because some diners had moved from meat to fish, but added that, like 11 September, it had deterred tourists from coming to London, which had adversely affected its total business.

Trading in areas where the group had traditionally secured a good lunchtime business, he said, had been adversely affected, as had trading at restaurants in popular tourist spots.

He added: “Fish has suffered from events beyond its control during a critical phase of growth. While trading remains difficult, the Fish! brand remains robust.”

Allan said that, owing to a general lack of consumer confidence, the group was to review its programme of openings. But it still plans to open at least five Fish! restaurants this year.

The group reported that trading since the year-end had been slower than expected, with like-for-like sales to the end of December down by 13%. January was also poor, it said, but like-for-like sales in February have increased by 7% and the group is now seeing early signs of a return of consumer confidence.

The Fish group now operates 19 Fish! restaurants and five specialist food suppliers in the UK.

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