Piccolino’s owner bucks leisure downturn

Manchester-based restaurant group Individual Restaurant Company reported solid trading for the 14 months to the end of 2007 and plans to open seven more Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill oulets this year.

IRC, which operates 18 Piccolinos and 10 Restaurant Bar & Grills, also said sales in December 2007 were up 13% on the same month in 2006.

Two restaurants were sold and six new outlets opened during the year. These were four Piccolino restaurants in Sheffield, West Didsbury, Ilkley and Exchange Square in the City of London and two Bar & Grill restaurants: Liverpool and Tunbridge Wells.

The publicly listed group said in its trading update statement to the Stock Exchange: "Trading conditions were generally more challenging in the closing months of the year and it was therefore pleasing to see a solid performance from the underlying estate."

The group also reported good progress converting its Bank and Zinc formats into line with the two core Piccolino and Bar & Grill brands. The former Zinc Bar and Grill in Heddon Street, London W1, was successfully converted to a Piccolino restaurant in May – the first in central London. Both Zinc Manchester and Zinc Glasgow were converted to the Restaurant Bar & Grill format, in May and September respectively.

The group's preliminary results will be announced on 31 March 2008, and are expected to be broadly in line with expectations.

Stephen Walker, chief executive of IRC, commented: "I am pleased to report positive trading over the Christmas period and the continued marked improvement from the integrated Bank and Zinc restaurants which is testament to the strength of our brands in view of ongoing challenging market conditions.

"Whilst the current uncertain consumer environment leaves us with a more cautious outlook over the year ahead in line with other operators, we remain confident the broad appeal of both the Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill concepts will continue to underpin a resilient performance from the group over the longer term".

Shares were unmoved at 68.5p, valuing the business at £24.29m.

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