Real Eating Company, the restaurant and café group, is continuing to expand across the south east having just opened in Bournemouth and planning a site in Salisbury to open later this year.

The group headed up by Helena Hudson opened its sixth site over the weekend as a standalone unit; it has already operated a concession inside a Steamer Trader store in the town for the past five years.

Hudson told M&C: “The past 10/11 months have seen great year on year sales growth across the whole group which has given us the confidence to open more sites. After the recession we had to reign back a bit but we’ve now got solid growth to continue.

“The first Bournemouth site we have had for about five years and it has always been a very good town for us sales-wise and we’ve just been looking around for the right site.

“We have two in Horsham and we have found that can work quite well operationally because you can move staff and stock around. But the main thing is that Bournemouth has been a very good town for us; we have the highest average spend there.”

The 52 cover site will benefit from longer trading hours than the in-store concession site. It will open 7am – 6pm instead of being restricted by the store’s opening hours.

The company is also at advanced legals for a site in Salisbury that is expected to open in September or October.

“The openings will continue but because we are partly opening them through cashflow and partly through debt the pace will be relatively slow. We want to know each site is working and adding profit and sales to the bottom line.

She said the group should be able to have another site open in Spring 2016 and is currently looking at Winchester for suitable property as well as Southampton, Guildford, Tunbridge Wells and a number of smaller towns in the south east.

She said the plan is to open several more sites if the year on year sales growth of 19% across the estate continues and beleives there are plenty more opportunities to explore in the southeast.

The group invested in technology and stock control systems over the past couple of years and has outsourced bookkeeping which means it is now in a comfortable position to expand by several more stores before needing to make further operational changes.

“We’re at quite an exciting time; it’s great to be able to start opening new sites again. It galvanises the business and staff again to give everyone a new focus,” Hudson said.