Comptoir leverages menu as it resists getting drawn into discounting fire-fight

A double-digit rise in half-year revenue at Comptoir Group has vindicated the chain’s decision to dig its heels in and avoid the high volume of discounting it claims is rife across the restaurant sector.

The company, which numbers just shy of 30 stores in the UK, said it has ploughed its energy into new menu development in a bid to improve customer retention, rather than resorting to slashing prices.

Chief executive Chaka Hanna pulled no punches as the company confirmed that sales rose 20% to £15.7m for the six months to 30 June.

He said: “A number of well-known national restaurant chains, with a fairly generic homogenous offering and no real ‘differential’ in their proposition to customers, have fallen recent victim to the challenging market place. We have observed a significant increase in the level of promotional activity within the restaurant sector, however, we have refrained from discounting and instead have focused all of our efforts on further improving the customer offering.

“Most recently through our enhanced new menu implemented in May this year, which introduced, amongst many other new items, our increasingly popular ‘Feast menu’; with a minimum of two diners at a competitive price point offering a truly well rounded exposure to the whole Lebanese dining experience.”

Comptoir currently owns and trades from 26 restaurants, comprising 19 Comptoir Libanais branches, two Yalla Yalla stores, three Shawa units and one Levant and one Kenza restaurant. The company’s three franchise restaurants are located in Heathrow, Gatwick & Utrecht.

It has only opened one store this year, in Birmingham, but plans two new additions to the estate in the second half of the year, in London Bridge and Cheshire Oaks. Two franchise sites, at Dubai Airport and Ashford in Kent, will open alongside franchise partner HMS Host in 2019.

“We remain cautious and committed to only invest in the sites which fit within the attributes associated with our most successful restaurants and that would contribute positively from their first full year of trading,” said Mr Hanna.

Although gross profits at the firm increased 19% for the six-month period, Comptoir is still loss-making. However, total net losses narrowed from £531,000 to £421,000. Mr Hanna said the group would “continue to control its costs and improve its operational efficiencies and margins”.

THE BIG INTERVIEW: Tony Kitous, Comptoir Libanais

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