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Tragus on the hunt for acquisitions

19 January 2006
Tragus on the hunt for acquisitions

Independent restaurant group Tragus is on the hunt for new sites to expand its Café Rouge and Bella Italia brands.

Chief executive officer Graham Turner said it had looked at a number of packages with the intention of buying them and converting the sites to Café Rouges, but had not found the right deal yet.

Turner said the company had "plenty of headroom" to fund acquisitions following a secondary buyout by Legal and General Ventures last year.

He added that he believed there remained the potential to double the size of the 82-strong Café Rouge estate in the UK in the longer term.

Currently the company plans to open 12 new units a year over the next three years, with Café Rouge making up the majority.

In the first five months of the year it will open new restaurants in Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool, London and Sheffield.

Although the company intends to continue opening Bella Italias, predominately in leisure parks, Turner said the intense competition in the Italian restaurant market meant there was more opportunity for Rouge's French brasserie offer.

A strong Christmas trading period helped like-for-like sales climb 8.9% in the six weeks to 8 January and total sales increase 13.3% year-on-year.

Turner said a return to basics at Café Rouge, which has gone back to its roots with simple French brasserie style food, after a number of attempts to modernise the offering, had proved popular with customers, especially shoppers.

By Chris Druce

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