Frankie & Benny’s owner tucks into bigger expansion plan

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SHARES in Frankie & Benny’s-owner The Restaurant Group hit a record high yesterday after the group cheered a rise in turnover and profit margins.

The chain, which already owns more than 400 restaurants and pubs, expects to open at least 30 sites this year, the majority of which will be branded as Frankie & Benny’s, and has more openings planned for next year.

Total sales rose by 11 per cent and like-for-like sales by 4.5 percent year-on-year during the first 19 weeks of 2013.

Simon French, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: “This is a slightly-stronger performance than we anticipated and the group is on track to report a very satisfactory first-half.”

The group paid a dividend for the year to 30 December of 11.8p, up 12 per cent year-on-year.

Canaccord Genuity analyst Wayne Brown said the company was now at an inflection point in terms of the amount of cash it is generating, prompting him to ask whether the group could consider a special dividend or share by back.

“The group is benefiting from the structural dynamics that are favourable in terms of the shift away from the high street to out-of-town leisure and retail parks,” he said. “Restaurant Group remains best positioned to take advantage of this trend.”

The group – which also owns chains including Chiquito, Filling Station and Garfunkel’s – hailed the success of its recently-launched Coast to Coast brand.

Chairman Alan Jackson told investors at the firm’s annual general meeting: “In total we expect to open between 30 and 35 restaurants this year, most of which will be in the second half and at least half of these will be Frankie and Benny’s.

“Looking further forward the new site pipeline for 2014 and beyond is better than we have seen for a number of years.”