The Independent Restaurant Company (IRC) has put its expansion plans on hold at least for the first half of the year, after it recorded a pre-tax loss of £872,000 for 2009.
The loss at the firm, which made a pre-tax profit of almost £1.2m in 2008, came despite a 1.7% rise in revenue to £53.3m for the period to 31 December 2009.
IRC has already signed leases on four new sites in Aberdeen, Knutsford, the City of London and Dorking. But it said that the "quantum and timing" of those openings would be determined by trading performance. And no new openings were anticipated in the first half of 2010. It currently has 22 Piccolino restaurants and 11 Restaurant Bar & Grill outlets.
In the meantime, it has saved costs of £2.1m, £0.1m ahead of its target, including the £0.4m of central cost savings which were mainly as a result of a reduction in staff. As a result, IRC has also been able to reduce its debt pile from £15.8m in 2008 to £12.4m as at the end of 2009.
Steven Walker, chief executive said: "I am pleased to announce another set of robust results in what has proved to be a challenging year. The group's performance is all the more creditable in that we intentionally refrained from mass discounting evident elsewhere across our industry. Whilst still offering value for money to our customers, this has served to protect margins and maintain the brand value of our premium casual dining concepts."
But IRC warned in a statement that it expected trading conditions in 2010 to be "as challenging" as 2009.
By Neil Gerrard
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