Deep Pan Pizza chain hit by upmarket dining trend

Pizza is proving a turn-off for restaurant goers who are choosing to splash out money on expensive and ever more exotic meals.

The trend has forced City Centre Restaurants (CCR), owner of the Deep Pan Pizza chain, to warn that profits for the year to December will fall short of market expectations, causing the shares to fall 15.5p to 133p.

The poor trading performance has prompted the group to restructure the division. James Naylor, chief executive of CCR, plans to sell or rebrand many of the group's 55 high street sites as part of a strategy to take the group up-market.

Mr Naylor said yesterday: "There has been a drift away from pizza and eating in high street restaurants over the last few years. People have been spending more and trying different things."

CCR confirmed that several potential buyers have already expressed an interest in some of the Deep Pan sites. Eventually most of the high street stores could disappear. The rest are likely to be refurbished to give them a more modern feel and the chain's name could also be changed. "Deep Pan Pizza has become a bit dated," admitted Mr Naylor.

Despite CCR's disappointing trading figures, Scott Charlesworth, managing director of its Caffe Uno chain, is in line for a huge profit-related bonus. He will receive pounds 800,000 this year on top of a pounds 100,000 pay out last year. Mr Naylor confirmed he is on course to make another pounds 800,000 this year.

Garfunkels and Chiquitos, the Mexican eateries, also grew strongly in the year and, ignoring Deep Pan Pizza, like-for-like sales in December rose 5.8 per cent.

CCR is planning to roll out Wok Wok, its new chain offering Asian delicacies, and is looking at least one new restaurant concept.

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