Out-of-town sites boom for Wagamama owner

Wagamama owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) has hailed a sales revival at its suburban pubs and restaurants after the coronavirus pandemic sent half-year losses rocketing.

TRG said there was strong trading at its flagship oriental chain in the 11 weeks to Sept 20, with like-for-like sales up 11pc during the period – boosted by a 24pc rise in out-of-town locations even as demand fell sharply in city centres.

Chief executive Andy Hornby said suburban outlets have been boosted by an increase in working from home, which has encouraged people to stay local.

Sales at TRG’s leisure arm, which includes the Frankie & Benny’s brand, reported a 4pc rise in the division’s strongest trading performance for five years. This was boosted by higher footfall at its leisure and retail parks and increased demand for delivery and takeaway.

But the company’s sales in central London suffered, reflecting a sharp drop in footfall as legions of office workers stayed at home. Wagamama suffered a 25pc sales decline in the capital, while sales in leisure sites there were down 68pc and pub sales dropped 38pc. 

The business was forced to permanently close one of its Wagamama sites in the City after a dearth of workers in the square mile left many pubs and restaurants deserted.

Mr Hornby said the Government’s 10pm hospitality curfew is piling further pressure on its struggling central London operation.

He said: “The curfew has been yet another encouragement for people to go out locally rather than in city centres.

“With more people working from home, leisure parks that have been considered to be problematic in the UK regarding footfall have seen stronger footfall, with city centres commensurately in strong decline.”

It came as TRG reported a £234.7m loss in the six months to June 28, worse than an £87.7m loss the year before.

Sales halved to £516m during the period after the company was forced to shut sites for three months during lockdown.  

Mr Hornby said it has been “an extraordinary and difficult period for the hospitality sector” but added that he is “genuinely pleased with the strength of our trading performance” since reopening.

Around 90pc of the company’s pubs and restaurants are now open.

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