The Restaurant Group (TRG) has reported a 1.5% uplift in like-for-like sales across its 354 restaurants and pubs for the year ended 28 December.
TRG, which operates the Brunning & Price pub estate as well as Bluebeckers, Garfunkel's, Chiquito and Frankie & Benny's reported sales growth of 14% to £417m with adjusted earnings before interest, depreciation and amortisation also up 14% to £77.5m.
TRG said that current trading was "satisfactory" given the economic climate with like-for-like sales down 2.5% for the nine weeks to 1 March — an improvement on the last two months of 2008.
TRG said its 44 pub restaurants perfomed "steadily" during 2008 with the Brunning & Price pubs, which it acquired in October 2007, delivering a "superb performance with growth in like-for-like sales, revenues and profits".
However, Bluebeckers outlets fared les well due to their geographical concentration in the South East, price point and more formal style. TRG plans to to align the Bluebeckers offer with that of Brunning & Price where possible in 2009.
It had planned to open between 5-10 new pubs but opened just two after assessing that the pub sector "was likely to come under more pressure over the next year or so".
Chief executive Andrew Page said: "Whilst this pressure may lead to further competitive discounting and pricing pressure in the near term it will, we believe, yield some potentially lucrative opportunities to grow our Pub Restaurant business in the future. Accordingly we have, for the time being, decided to 'keep our powder dry' in the expectation that over the next couple of years we will have the opportunity to use our resources to greater effect. Longer-term we believe that this business has the potential to grow significantly. "
Across the company TRG opened 40 new sites during the year and plans to open a further 15-20 in the year ahead.
"Against a difficult economic backdrop, the current year has started well with total revenues 4% ahead of last year," Page added. "The Group is in good shape with strong cashflows and, having eschewed the trend in recent years of replacing permanent capital with bank debt, we are well placed to weather the recession and take advantage of opportunities to add new restaurants within our selected market segments."