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Las Iguanas, Bella Italia owner to open 50 new restaurants

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Las Iguanas has consistently proven to be an extremely popular choice with consumers, said The Big Table Group's CEO. Photo: Reuters
Las Iguanas has consistently proven to be an extremely popular choice with consumers, said The Big Table Group's CEO. Photo: Reuters

The Big Table Group, owner of popular restaurant chains Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is gearing up to open 50 new restaurants over the next three years as part of a £54m ($74m) investment.

The move will take its total number of sites to 200 and create 1,250 jobs.

The group intends to invest £35m to open the new venues — 35 will come under the Las Iguanas brand, which serves Latin American food and drinks, doubling its current number of sites.

Las Iguanas restaurants in Southampton and Plymouth shopping centre Barcode are set to be open by the end of the year.

The company said the chain, already thriving before the pandemic, has exceeded expectations since reopening in the summer.

Read more: UK small businesses are worried about growth, not debt

CEO Alan Morgan said: “Las Iguanas has consistently proven to be an extremely popular choice with consumers, and now is the perfect time to grow the brand across the country, targeting high footfall locations in major towns and city centres.”

Another £19m will go towards refurbishing 70 sites over the next three years, which includes all of the Bella Italia venues.

Big Table, owned by Epiris, was created just last year to acquire the chains previously managed by the Casual Dining Group.

"With strong recovery in the sector, we are ready to fund additional pipeline opportunities and look forward to expanding our brands," said Alex Fortescue, managing partner at Epiris.

The group has also moved into the delivery-only space, opening its first dark kitchen earlier this month in London's Battersea. 

It is planning to open another one in Birmingham early next year, selling menu items from all three restaurants.

Read more: FTSE 100 climbs as traders look ahead to UK Budget this week

The news comes as the hospitality sector appears to be on track to recover from the pandemic.

It outpaced the rest of the economy for the first time in more than nine years during September, according to the Lloyds (LLOY.L) Bank UK Recovery Tracker, which showed that the sector — including pubs, hotels, restaurants and travel agents — had a reading of 62.2 last month.

A reading above 50 signals output is rising, while a reading below 50 indicates contraction.

The sector was the fastest growing of the 14 monitored by the tracker, for the first time since January 2012, as it benefitted from strong demand and an ease of lockdown restrictions.

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