Piccolino owner Individual Restaurant Company (IRC) has insisted there is a bright future for premium casual dining in the UK, despite consumer concern over the UK economy.
The company, which operates 18 Piccolinos and 10 Restaurant Bar & Grill sites insisted that casual dining customers would not abandon a quality experience in search of saving a few pounds.
Steven Walker, chief executive, told Caterersearch: "In the last six months things have got a little bit tight but 50% of the population are ABC1s and that is our customer base. It is unlikely that people are going to trade down on quality simply because times are a bit tighter.
"Eating out is seen as part of everyday life. We believe that while it is a slightly tighter trading environment and a belt-tightening environment we believe we would not suffer in the ways that others have."
The premium casual dining sector (characterised by a higher per head spend on food of £18 or more by analysts) seems to be holding up well sales wise despite predictions consumers will cut spending on eating out as the global credit crunch bites.
At the start of the year both Strada and Carluccio's reported sales increases, although the pub market appears to be struggling.
IRC felt the benefit of its 2006 £32m reverse takeover with Bank Restaurant Group as revenues rose by 273% to £50.9m for the 14 months ending 31 December 2007. Profit before tax was up to £2.6m against a prior year loss of £3.5m.
The company opened six restaurants in 2007 and plans to open seven this year. Its average restaurant taking are approximately £30,000 a week.
By Christopher Walton
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