Fulham Shore – owner of Franco Manca and The Real Greek – plans to open as many as 10 new restaurants in the coming year after taking £1m in weekly sales for the first time and reporting long queues during peak periods.
The company’s board said it is targeting between eight and 10 new sites in the financial year to March 2020, adding that each would be “as compact as possible”, with appropriate rent levels for its location.
New Franco Manca stores in Leeds, Edinburgh and Manchester are among those that will open as the company continues to add more regional outposts to its London stronghold.
Fulham Shore launched four new Franco Mancas last year, but said the overall 17% annual sales growth it posted yesterday was primarily driven by improved trading and increased customer numbers within its existing restaurant estate, giving it a “sound” platform from which to launch new sites.
Chairman David Page commented: “We now have 36 Central London Franco Manca locations. We have queues at peak times in many of our Central London pizzeria and in other major cities where we are located around the UK, reflecting the popularity of our sourdough pizza. As a result, this year, we will continue to search for new sites both within London and throughout the UK.
“Our mission to create delicious food at reasonable prices has been supported throughout the year by continued menu innovation delivered through the hard work and dedication of both The Real Greek and Franco Manca operating teams, who are constantly focused on improving their menus whilst keeping prices affordable. During the period we introduced highly popular new menu items including the seasonal pizza number 7 in Franco Manca and the vegan menu in The Real Greek.”
The forthcoming openings programme will include at least two The Real Greeks, which is popular with families, office lunches and evening candle-lit dinners.
The average The Real Greek restaurant serves more than 2,000 customers a week, with vegan and vegetarian menu innovations launched last spring proving a hit with diners.
Fulham Shore’s expansion also appears to be buoyed by more favourable rent conditions.
Mr Page said landlords are facing falling retail and restaurant demand for their sites, due in part to the continued move to internet shopping, the contraction of some large restaurant chains, and the challenging economic backdrop over the past three years.
“Many of these landlords and their commercial agents continue to suggest we are at the bottom of the cycle. However, we believe there is a way to go. Consequently, we feel the longer we wait for properties the better value we can achieve.”
He added that holding out for lower rents feeds through to continued low prices on its menus, which he said was “excellent” for customers.
“We have sometimes seen as much as a 30% fall in rent where an existing tenant ceases trading and the landlord re-lets the property. We believe this decline will continue. This has happened only once before in my 46 years of restaurant and property experience – during the 1989-93 UK recession.
“I believe we are due for a longer period of rental decline this time around. Commercial agents, who have historically been aligned with institutional landlords’ interests, should realise the boot is now firmly on the other foot. These agents should start to truly represent successful tenants’ interests as that is where the power and their interest now lies.”