The year 2014 is set to be a crucial one for Latin American-style restaurant and bar group Las Iguanas, with a host of new openings expected over the 12-month period as new developments expected for this year and 2013 are delayed.
Eren Ali, chief executive of the 28-strong group revealed that 2014 would be an unusually active year in terms of openings, as the company unveiled a 13% rise in total sales to £33.8m for the 53 weeks to 31 March 2012.
Ali confirmed that Las Iguanas planned to be "knocking on the door of 40 sites" by the end of 2014, with two new openings planned for early next year, and another four or five from March 2013 until the end of that year.
But he said that in 2014, the company faced the prospect of opening a site every month. "The year 2014 is really key for us because what has happened is that over the last year or two, and especially this year, more and more developments that we were planning to go into have been slipping further behind. We are on agreed terms on a number of developments that are slipping behind. These key developments are having trouble raising the finance."
"We are trying to do four or five sites from March 2013 onwards but the way it has gone, we are going to have a bunch-up of sites in 2014."
Meanwhile, Ali said that pre-Christmas trading at Las Iguanas this year has been very positive so far, helped along by an extra day of trading, with Christmas Day falling on a Tuesday. He also expected a strong start to January thanks to the shopping centre locations of some of Las Iguanas's newer sites, such as Meadowhall in Sheffield, Westfield in Stratford, and Union Square in Aberdeen. The Westfield site is now regularly taking over £70,000 in sales per week, with many of the group's other sites at around £40,000 a week.
But the group's high street locations, which has been a tough environment for some operators, have also fared well according to Ali. "Last year nine of our sites, including some of our oldest sites like Mill Lane in Cardiff, or Leeds, had record years. We continued to invest in our team and management. We are constantly innovating and I think that that is helping some of our old sites, given that we are 22 years old."
"We've got to be on the right high street, of course," he added "And not opnly in the right high street but in the right location on the high street. It is really difficult getting that right. The site that we opened in Newcastle recently took us two years to do a deal on."
Las Iguanas is currently supported by Bowmark Capital, although it is expected to exit the business once Las Iguanas has completed its current round of expansion.
By Neil Gerrard
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