Middle Eastern restaurant chain Comptoir Group, which operates 23 sites including 18 under the Comptoir Libanais brand, has warned that it has seen "difficult trading" over the past two months, with unexpected falls in like-for-like sales and profit at its mature restaurants during May.
The business, which has opened 10 restaurants within the last eight months and two franchise locations, said that it had seen improved sales figures over the Easter weekend and half-term holidays but that "unfortunately much of this benefit was subsequently lost in the final two weeks of the month".
Retail-led locations and its higher spend restaurants Levant and Kenza had all suffered in May, it added in a trading update ahead of its AGM today.
"In addition, although the group as a whole is seeing a progression in sales, a number of the restaurants opened in 2016 remain behind expectations in terms of their anticipated maturity trading curve," the company added.
The business blamed upward pressure on costs, including incremental wage costs and the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, as well as higher food and drink costs and increases in rents and business rates.
"Together with the softening in consumer spending, these factors have had a significant impact on restaurant profitability and visibility over short-term trading trends. The company has taken steps to limit the increase in central overheads," the business continued.
Despite the challenges the directors of Comptoir said they believed it had "strong appeal" to consumers and landlords and that there remained "considerable potential" for UK expansion.
The company plans to open three more restaurants before the end of 2017 - Comptoir Reading, Comptoir Oxford and Shawa Oxford - together with a first international franchise operation in the Netherlands with HMS Host.
The business also expects to raise £2.7m from the sale and leaseback of the freehold of its central processing unit (CPU) in north London. The net proceeds will be used to fund the remaining new openings for 2017.
Comptoir Group, which was founded by Algerian Tony Kitous in 2008 and is now run in partnership with his business partner and chief executive Chaker Hanna, raised £8m for expansion last year as it declared plans to open 50 restaurants in the next five years.
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