Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) hailed “good progress” over the past half-year as it said very strong trading since reopening venues has seen it upgrade its earnings targets.
The company, which operates 400 pubs and restaurants across the UK, said the recovery has been spearheaded by strong performances by its Wagamama pan-Asian chain and the group’s pub arm.
Chief executive Andy Hornby said trading has outperformed the wider hospitality sector but warned that the group is still navigating industry challenges including “labour availability and supply chain” issues.
He told the PA news agency that the group has tackled shortages of some items in its supply chains but has worked with suppliers to sufficiently mitigate this issue.
“We are working very closely with our suppliers to make sure there is a real understanding of our needs, because we have to be really careful to consistently track demand to ensure this does not impact customers,” he said.
“The whole industry is seeing a shortage in key staff, including chefs. Before the pandemic there had been some sector issues in London, but now this has spread a lot more widely.
“But we recognise this will not solve itself overnight so that we were are looking at how we work on this over the next 12 or 18 months, encouraging more apprenticeships and schemes like that.”
TRG, which also runs Frankie & Benny’s, told shareholders on Wednesday that it has seen 21% like-for-like growth across Wagamama since reopening until August 29, with its pubs business reporting 14% growth.
The group said the strength of its trading after reopening sites following the latest lockdown has reinforced its plans to expand its portfolio.
It said Wagamama, which currently has 144 outlets, has the potential to grow to between 180 and 200 restaurants.
It added that it is on track to open five new branches in the current financial year, with a further aim for between five and seven new locations each year.
The company also hopes to open at least five new Wagamama delivery kitchens each year.
Meanwhile, TRG said it plans to roughly double its pub estate – which currently stands at 78 sites – in the long term.
Mr Hornby said: “We have made good progress in the past six months, securing the refinancing and recapitalisation of the group in the first quarter before focusing our attention on the reopening of the business and welcoming back dine-in customers as Government restrictions eased.
“I am particularly proud of the way that our teams have pulled together to support one another, ensuring a great experience for our customers and delivering a strong like-for-like sales outperformance versus the market.
“Whilst there are some well-documented sector challenges to navigate in the short term, particularly around labour availability and supply chain, we believe the group is well positioned for the long term.”
The group also revealed that it posted a £58.8 million statutory loss for the half-year to July 4, compared with a £234.7 million loss over the same period last year.
Meanwhile, sales dipped by 4.6% to £216.8 million for the six-month period.