Casual Dining Group will equal Nando's in size within six months and plans to double the number of restaurants in the group from 302 to around 600.
That's according to the company's chief executive Steve Richards, who was speaking at the Fourth Conference in London last week.
Richards, who took over the running of what was then Tragus in 2014, is in the throes of transforming the company, revitalising old Tragus brands and acquiring new businesses to sit with them.
Already, the company has sold 43 Strada sites to Hugh Osmond and acquired Las Iguanas in July this year for £85m and La Tasca in September for £25m.
Currently Casual Dining Group is the fourth largest restaurant business in the company, just behind Nando's.
Richards said he saw plenty of potential in both Bella Italia, which he estimates can grow to 300 sites, and Café Rouge, which he thinks could reach 150 from 90 sites today. Both were "tired and underinvested" when he took on his role but are equally "scalable and very profitable", he said. The business is also in the process of launching a new Café Rouge grab and go format, which Richards said could open in up to 50 transport hubs.
Similarly, Las Iguanas could also grow to 150 restaurants, he claimed. Having only recently acquired La Tasca, however, the business has yet to make a decision as to what it will do with that brand.
"When we acquired the debt of Tragus and took control, we refinanced and we now have a leverage of less than two and a half times so that we can fund our own growth. We wanted a business with a big pipeline of new sites so this is not about stripping something down, this is a growth plan. I am pleased to say this year we are going to open 27 new sites, the following year another 23, and we would like to do more," Richards said.
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