The boss of one of the UK's largest restaurant groups today insisted that casual dining operations will weather a slowdown in consumer spending.
Operators such as The Restaurant Group and Clapham House have warned that this year is likely to be tough, but Graham Turner, chief executive of Café Rouge and Bella Italia owner Tragus, said that consumers had continued to spend in the group's restaurants over Christmas.
"Christmas is always an important period and a barometer of the nation's financial health," he said.
"This year has seen a more challenging trading period than that of a year ago but our affordable all day offer and portfolio of brands continue to have a board appeal and we see no change in the overall long-term demand for casual dining."
In the four weeks to 6 January 2008, like-for-like sales at the company's 174 restaurants grew 4.5% year-on-year. Total sales, including new sites, rose 24.7%.
The group, which is owned by private equity giant Blackstone, plans to open around 38 new sites during is financial year 2008, having opened 27 since May 2007.
By Chris Druce
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