Steve Richards to step down as Casual Dining Group CEO

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Steve Richards to step down as Casual Dining Group CEO

Related tags: Casual dining

Steve Richards is to step down as CEO of Casual Dining Group (CDG), the operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, after over five years.

Richards will depart the business at the end of May to join Parkdean Holidays as CEO.

Under his tenure CDG offloaded and acquired several restaurant brands to become a c.290 site business.

The company, then named Tragus, sold 43 Strada sites to Hugh Osmond’s Sun Capital Partners for £37m in 2014.

It then acquired both the Las Iguanas​ and La Tasca chains in 2015 for over £100m combined​.

A search for Richards’ replacement is currently underway. Rooney Anand, outgoing chief executive of Greene King, was appointed non-executive chairman of CDG last year.

Anand says: “On behalf of the Board I would like to thank Steve for his achievements as CEO of CDG. We will be appointing his successor soon and making a further announcement in due course. Steve will be helping us effect a smooth transition as we continue to grow and develop the business in the fast moving and competitive casual dining market.”

Tough trading​ 

CDG received a £30m refinancing package in July 2018,​ which the company said positioned it for growth in a ‘challenging environment’.

The group saw losses rise 18% to £60m in the year to May 2017, despite a 2.2% rise in like for like sales. It cited a "significant" increase in costs and tough trading conditions as one of the reasons for its performance.

But in a statement for the 14 weeks to 1 July 2018 CDG said its sales were up 5%, and like-for-like sales up 2.3%, and it had seen a double digit profit uplift in the period.

The company appointed a restructuring advisor in a bid to reduce its rent bill in late 2018, with Richards telling the Sunday Times​ a "small number" of its sites were loss-making due to "high rents and rates" in a "difficult trading environment".

Speaking at the Casual Dining Show in London last week, Richards said issues such as oversupply and food price inflation had “pretty much removed” 20% margin from the sector since 2016.

But he insisted Café Rouge was “holding its own” in “a very tough environment” on high streets and in shopping malls, Bella Italia was “performing strongly”, while millennial-targeted Las Iguanas was “shooting the lights out and doing very well”.

He added that CDG was trying to think “beyond walk-ins” and was focusing on developing its concessions​ and delivery-only brands, such as Las Iguanas spin-off Blazing Bird​ and croque monsieur concept Stack + Grill.

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