The Restaurant Group (TRG), owner of Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's says Christmas 2009 was an 'encouraging improvement' on 2008's festive season and is expecting to report profits 'well ahead' of current market forecasts when it posts its full year results in March.
In an interim management statement for the 46 weeks to 15 November, the group, also owner of the Chiquito, Blubeckers and Brunning & Price brands, said like-for-like sales were 3 per cent down, but after buoyant Christmas trade, like-for-like sales were 2 per cent down.
In a statement, TRG said: "The Group intends to announce its 2009 full year results in early March 2010 and expects to report profits well ahead of the top end of the range of current market forecasts, with net debt significantly lower than at the end of the 2008 financial year."
"Against a very challenging economic backdrop, with acute pressures on consumer spend, this represents a solid performance."
The group opened 19 new restaurants in 2009, one less than planned, and is aiming to open up to 20 in 2010.
"Looking forward, we are expecting a continuation of these challenging economic conditions and will be focusing our efforts on delivering further profitable progress in 2010," it added.