Turnover at PizzaExpress grew by 9.1% to £206.7m in the 26 weeks to 2 July 2017 driven by UK and international growth, although group EBITDA dropped 13.9% to £40.6m amid increasing cost pressures in the market.
PizzaExpress said it expected a decrease in EBITDA during this period due to cost pressures in the UK market, including business rates, pay rates and food inflation.
However, like-for-like sales were back into growth in the UK and Ireland (1.3%) after two consecutive years of a drop in UK sales. Continued strong performance in international markets saw like-for-like sales increase by 17.7%.
The group opened eight new sites in the UK and Ireland and a further eight internationally during the 26 weeks including the first Firezza dine-in restaurant on Dean Street, London. As an attempt to "diversity the business" PizzaExpress also launched PizzaExpress Live, which combines dining with live music and other entertainment.
Wang said: "PizzaExpress has performed in line with expectations in the first half of 2017, with Group turnover continuing on its strong growth trajectory. We are pleased that like-for-like sales in the UK & Ireland have returned to growth, though sector-wide cost pressures in the UK market. Our international business continued to deliver strong growth across all territories.
"We maintained our focus on growing the international business which we believe represents a huge opportunity for us. We opened eight new sites in the first half, and have a strong opening pipeline in place for the year ahead. Our experience internationally has taught us that getting our menus right is essential to success in these markets. We have been working on adapting our offering so that it is relevant and appealing to local tastes, which in many cases has meant expanding our range while ensuring that high quality, good value pizza is central to our menu.
"Looking ahead, we believe conditions in the UK market will remain challenging, with cost headwinds continuing. However, we do expect various initiatives we have undertaken to partially mitigate these pressures. The recent strong performance of our international business gives us increasing confidence in the opportunity for us in our chosen markets."
PizzaExpress launched in 1965 when founder Peter Boizot opened the first PizzaExpress restaurant on Wardour Street in London's Soho. It now has over 600 restaurants globally.
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