Prezzo plans to open more outlets

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Restaurant chain Prezzo plans to open another 25 outlets this year after smashing City forecasts for profits in 2012 despite the austere consumer climate.

The pizza and pasta chain opened 31 new restaurants during 2012 as it grew revenues by 17% to £144.5 million.

Adjusted profits of £18.3 million were 5% ahead of analysts' forecasts and 11% better than a year earlier, even though the period was impacted by summer distractions such as the Olympics, Euro 2012 and Royal Jubilee.

Its expansion plans will add about 375 more staff to its total workforce of around 3,000.
Chief executive and co-founder Jonathan Kaye said a combination of opening in good locations, training, marketing and its food offer drove the out-performance.

Chairman Michael Carlton added: "This is the fifth consecutive year that we have entered without a clear conviction that the UK economy can deliver sustained growth on any meaningful scale over the next 12 months. However, Prezzo has prospered during this period of uncertainty and we will continue to drive the business forward."

Prezzo halted expansion in 2009 as the downturn squeezed consumer spending and profits. But new openings in 2012, plus a couple of closures, gave the company 210 outlets by the end of December.

New sites for the Italian-style Prezzo brand included prime spots in London such as the newly-overhauled Kings Cross station, as well as restaurants in Manchester, Bristol, Bath, Beaconsfield, Marlow, Southport and Chingford. It also recently opened a Prezzo in Belfast, its first in Northern Ireland.

Prezzo also counted more success with its Chimichanga Tex-Mex chain, which sells food including fajita wraps, tortilla burgers and enchiladas. Its "increasing confidence" in the brand prompted 13 new openings, including in Bournemouth, Bury St Edmunds, Bromley and Ealing, to give it 28 sites.

Mr Kaye said trading is "going well so far this year", but declined to give more detail on underlying sales growth. He said: "I remain confident in being able to adapt to what the economy throws at us."

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