Losses widen at Piccolino's parent firm

INDIVIDUAL Restaurant Company (IRC), the owner of the Piccolino and the Restaurant Bar &amp; 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 &pound;838,000, compared to &pound;83,000 in 2008, despite a five per cent increase in revenues to &pound;26.2m. <br /><br />The firm said it had been hurt by one-off costs of &pound;346,000 related to its recent &pound;2.1m fundraising via a placing and open offer. <br /><br />IRC, which operates 22 Piccolino and 11 Restaurant Bar &amp; 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 &pound;16.4m at the end of June, around &pound;2.1m below its maximum borrowing levels.<br /><br />The majority of the &pound;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 &ldquo;unlikely&rdquo; to open new outlets this year. <br /><br />Chief executive Steven Walker said: &ldquo;Whilst the consumer outlook remains challenging, both Piccolino and Restaurant Bar &amp; Grill continue to deliver a robust performance and trading is in line with management expectations. <br /><br />&ldquo;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.&rdquo;<br /><br />He also said the firm had shaved &pound;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 &pound;600,000 in savings by the end of the year.