Profits take wing at Pelican

Belle epoque: Last summer's heatwave boosted nation-wide expansion for restaurant group specialising in pavement catering at affordable prices
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The Independent Online
NIGEL COPE

The blazing summer and the trend towards the cafe culture has doubled profits at Pelican group, the restaurant business that runs the Cafe Rouge and Dome chains.

The company has been opening a new restaurant every day over the last six months and plans to have more than 100 by March. The new Cafe Rouge which opens today in Reigate, Surrey, will be the group's 91st.

Roger Myers, chief executive, said the popularity of al fresco eating in the summer pushed up sales by 3 per cent as branches of the Dome and Cafe Rouge feature pavement tables. But eating out was also becoming more popular.

"People are eating out more than ever,'' he said. "With the rise in the numbers of working women, people are looking for affordable places to eat out." The average price of a lunch at Cafe Rouge was still only pounds 6.50, he said, while a dinner for two would cost pounds 25. He added that though his restaurants were seen as trendy places to visit there was still a resistance to higher prices.

Pelican has started to expand the Cafe Rouge concept outside London with branches in Birmingham, Bristol, Brighton and Aberdeen. Next year the Dome and Mamma Amalfi formats will also be taken nation-wide: "It's very pleasing that the concepts have worked so well outside London. We still have a lot of scope for expansion."

Pelican has opened or converted 64 restaurants since April 1994. It has acquired Abbaye, a monastery themed restaurant in Bromley, Kent. Pelican started with one restaurant in Richmond, Surrey, in 1989 and has been expanding rapidly ever since. A second branch of Sheila's, a barbeque- style restaurant is also likely.

Pelican announced pre-tax profits up 124 per cent to pounds 3m in the six months to September. Sales were up by 76 per cent to pounds 24m. Shares closed 1p higher at 117.5p. The interim dividend increased by 30 per cent to 0.65p.

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