30 more Pelican sites set to take flight

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The Independent Online
The boom in branded restaurants will see Pelican Group start trading from another 30 sites this year, creating 700 jobs in the process. This will increase the number in its chain of Cafe Rouge, Mamma Amalfi, Rock Island Diner and Dome restaurants by 50 per cent to 89. Pelican had only nine sites when its shares became available on the USM in 1990.

The general growth in branded concepts in the UK owes much to the recession, which spawned a value-for-money culture among consumers. Roger Myers, chairman of Pelican, said yesterday that consumers were almost certainly going to continue to shop around for value.

What was very much the middle ground before the recession has now become the high ground, with the traditional high-tariff restaurant giving way to a burgeoning crop of cheaper places led by Pizza Hut, Burger King, McDonald's, and TGI Friday's, three of

which are backed by two of the UK's biggest companies.

Cafe Rouge will continue to be the brand that Pelican uses to carve out a larger slice in the industry. One in two of its restaurants fly the Rouge flag and so will most of the 30 restaurants it opens this year.

These new style of restaurateurs are basking in a favourable climate. Inflation on food prices is low and they continue to turn the screw on suppliers through their growing buying power.

There is also an abundance of cheap sites, many of which become available because 95 per cent of independent restaurateurs go bust a couple of years after opening.

The typical total cost of opening a 100-seat Cafe Rouge is £250,000. The average spend per head on a lunch, including drinks, at a Cafe Rouge is £6.50 and for dinner is £12.50. Mr Myers said there were no signs that consumers were ready to spend more.

However, he said more people were eating out. Customer numbers rose 8 per cent in the first half of the financial year to 30 September, resulting in the group yesterday reporting a rise in pre-tax profits from £960,000 to £1.35m and paying a maiden interim dividend of 0.5p.

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