Fulham Shore, operator of Franco Manca and the Real Greek restaurant brands, has inked a franchise agreement to expand into Greece with plans for at least six restaurants over the next three years.
David Page and Nabil Mankarious, both directors of Fulham Shore, will each have a beneficial interest of 5% of the issued share capital of Franco Manca EE, founded by "a group of experienced local operators and investors".
The first opening will be in the Athens metropolitan area and two sites are being secured in Nea Filadelfeia and Peristeri.
The group said it was also exploring additional international franchise opportunities and was in discussions on territories in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
In a trading update, Fulham Shore said it had fully repaid the £8.5m remaining balance of its £10.7m Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan and had extended its revolving credit facility (RCF) with HSBC from March 2022 to November 2024, increasing the facility from £14.25m to £17m, towards increased expansion plans and further investment.
As of 3 November the group had net cash of approximately £4.3m which, combined with the extended RCF and existing overdraft facility, gave the group financial headroom of over £20m.
The group said restaurants continued to trade strongly, ahead of the comparative period in 2019, with sales of delivery meals higher than in 2019 and strong revenue growth post-September "ahead of management's expectations".
Since September, revenues in the group's 17 restaurants in the West End of London and city centre office locations were 3% ahead of the same weeks in 2019 as office worker and tourist footfall improved.
The group has opened a Franco Manca in London's Blackheath Village, with fitting out works under way in a further Franco Manca in London's Baker Street and another two the Real Greeks in Kent's Bluewater shopping centre and Manchester's Corn Exchange. These new restaurants are expected to take the group to 79 sites in total (57 Franco Manca and 22 the Real Greek) by Christmas 2021.
Fulham Shore also said there were 20 further potential sites in solicitors' hands for both new Franco Manca and the Real Greek restaurants.
Chairman David Page said: "We are maintaining margins in both our businesses as the rise in our restaurant sales is enabling the group to deal with the well-flagged inflation of utility costs and the wage increases that have been instigated.
"We have repaid our government-backed CLIBL loan early and, with the support of our long-term bank, HSBC, have put the company on an extremely secure financial footing with an extended £17m RCF facility, reinforcing the group's strong platform for continued expansion.
"We are accelerating our growth in the UK and abroad. We continue to trade ahead of our own expectations and have a strong pipeline of exciting new locations."