INDIVIDUAL Restaurant Company (IRC), the owner of the Piccolino and the Restaurant Bar & Grill chains, yesterday reported widening first half losses and said that it would put its expansion plans on hold this year. <br /><br />First-half pre-tax losses widened to £838,000, compared to £83,000 in 2008, despite a five per cent increase in revenues to £26.2m. <br /><br />The firm said it had been hurt by one-off costs of £346,000 related to its recent £2.1m fundraising via a placing and open offer. <br /><br />IRC, which operates 22 Piccolino and 11 Restaurant Bar & Grill branches, said that the fundraising and a refinancing agreed with Lloyds Banking <br />Group meant it was now comfortably within its banking covenants. <br /><br />Chairman Robert Breare said the firm had net debt of £16.4m at the end of June, around £2.1m below its maximum borrowing levels.<br /><br />The majority of the £2.1m fundraising would be used to reduce the debt pile, Breare said, adding that the firm would put its expansion plans on the back burner and was “unlikely” to open new outlets this year. <br /><br />Chief executive Steven Walker said: “Whilst the consumer outlook remains challenging, both Piccolino and Restaurant Bar & Grill continue to deliver a robust performance and trading is in line with management expectations. <br /><br />“We remain confident of the prospects for the group over the medium to long term and are well placed for the upturn in the consumer environment when it occurs.”<br /><br />He also said the firm had shaved £1.4m off its costs in the first half by cutting staff and reorganising shift patterns. <br /><br />The business said it would find another £600,000 in savings by the end of the year.