There was more good news for the hospitality industry this week as a host of businesses made it into a list of the UK's fastest-growing companies.
Eight hospitality businesses - including Living Ventures and Italian chain Carluccio's - featured in the survey, carried out by Real Business magazine and Lloyd's TSB's private equity arm, LDC.
Top of the restaurant contenders, at number 26, was The Individual Restaurant Company, operator of Piccolino's in Knutsford, Cheshire, and the Restaurant Bar & Grill in Manchester.
Founded by husband and wife team Derek and Edwina Lilley, the company showed annual sales growth of 124%, and has increased revenues from 1.2m to 9.7m over the past four years.
Restaurant and bar operator Living Ventures also fared well at position 41. The Liverpool-based group has shown annual revenue growth of almost 100% in the past four years, with sales hitting 19.5m in 2004.
Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio's chain of Italian caf-delis ranked number 49, with annual sales growth of 90% over the past four years and sales rising from 2.85m in 2001 to 19.5m in 2004.
Smoothie producer Innocent was the star performer, however, in overall third place. Innocent drinks grew by 205% annually, increasing its sales from 374,000 in 2001 to 10.6m last year.
Adam Balom, chief squeezer at Innocent, said: "We are chuffed to bits with this. We are in an area of the market that is all about healthy, fresh stuff, which is what people want - and that has been a key part of our growth."
Meanwhile, Loch Fyne Restaurants which ranked 23rd in 2004, this year slipped to 53rd place with 89% annual growth.
Gambling machine operator Global Draw topped the poll with annual growth of over 307%. 2004 sales were 32m, compared with 472,000 in 2001.