Franco Manca owner eyes expansion as rents fall and sites empty

Franco Manca owner The Fulham Shore has said it is eyeing expansion opportunities across the UK as the coronavirus crisis pulls rents lower and forces rivals to vacate sites.

The restaurant group, which also runs The Real Greek chain, told investors it is “well positioned” to benefit from structural changes to the sector.

“With rents likely to be falling for the next few years and more sites becoming available, the future looks promising for Fulham Shore,” the company said on Thursday.

It predicted there will be “less competition” as a result of the virus, which has caused pizza-selling rivals such as Pizza Express, Pizza Hut and Zizzi to shutter sites.

The Fulham Shore said it will “go prospecting” in areas of the country where it can open more restaurants, highlighting Newcastle, Canterbury, Cardiff and Glasgow as areas for potential expansion.

The group said it has now reopened 68 of its 70 restaurants with extra safety precautions in place.

Sales lifted after reopening as the Eat Out To Help Out scheme helped to boost takings in August, the company said.

It told investors that it does not believe the recently announced 10pm curfew will have a major impact on trading and believes it is well positioned to adapt to the further tightening of restrictions.

The company said it believes its strategy of opening Franco Manca restaurants in London suburb areas “has borne fruit” in recent months, reporting that these sites “are busier than they have ever been”.

However, it said the absence of tourists and office workers in central London has impacted its Real Greek sites in the area.

But it added that its Real Greek restaurants elsewhere in the country have performed more strongly, with some regional locations “twice as busy as they were last year”.