Coco Di Mama and Ask Italian Azzurri owner beats the market with growing sales

Alys Key
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City favourite Coco Di Mama is one of the company's brands (Source: Azzurri)

The owner of Zizzi's, Ask Italian and Coco Di Mama reported above-market sales growth this morning, as its chief executive said it had embraced food delivery culture as an "opportunity".

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The figures

Azzurri said sales had increased 12.5 per cent annually to £262.8m, with positive like-for-like growth.

Underlying earnings grew 8.6 per cent to £38m.

The group said that it had successfully dealt with inflationary cost pressures, meaning underlying margins fell only slightly to 14.5 per cent compared with 15 per cent the previous year.

Following the opening of 17 new sites this year, the group's portfolio of Ask, Zizzi's, Coco Di Mama and Radio Alice outlets stood at 280.

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Why it's interesting

The picture painted by the Azzurri results is very different to industry-wide figures released this morning by CGA, which showed restaurant sales declined nationwide last month with the biggest drop in London.

Azzurri chief executive Steve Holmes told City A.M. that London "is still quite a good market for us".

"We're trading equally well inside as outside London. We benefit from increased tourist numbers especially in locations like Covent Garden and the Strand," he said.

Holmes added that the group would continue to focus on the City and selected other London locations for the gradual expansion of coffee and food-to-go chain Coco Di Mama, a new branch of which is set to open on King William Street this year.

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According to Holmes, the company has invested in the food delivery sphere which "won't go away".

"There is a group of younger millennials who are looking to replicate restaurant experiences at home," he said.

Rather than seeing home delivery as competition, Holmes said Azzurri has invested in elements such as the packaging of takeout orders so that it has some control over the experience of its customers.

What Azzurri said

CEO Steve Holmes said: "Our philosophy has always been providing a proposition that's relevant to the consumer. We've been investing in our sites, refurbishing all of our restaurants every five years."

He added that among other innovations, Azzurri's restaurants are the first to offer vegan cheese on any pizza.

"Now we're entering tougher trading conditions and consumers are less willing to gamble their cash on less good experiences. The ones with a strong proposition and innovation will win out."

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