The Big Table Group has reported £223.2m in sales for the year ended 29 October 2023, up from £206.2m the previous year.

The operator of Las Iguanas, Bella Italia, Banana Tree, and Café Rouge further reported a loss before tax of £7.9m, compared to a loss of £3m in 2022.

Adjusted EBITDA stood at £12.9m, while gross profit margin rose from 40.4% to 42.6%. This improvement came from both cost of sales and cost of labour, attributed to the success in mitigating inflation and optimising the cost base.

The company is further pleased with the improvement in EBITDA – which stood at £8.9m excluding VAT relief in 2022, while including energy costs that were £3.4m lower in 2022. It is confident its sales to EBITDA conversion will provide further improvement in the current financial year.

Big Table Group spent over £3.8m on development capex during the period, including new sites, brand conversions, and refurbishments. Key investments include two new Las Iguanas sites and six completed Banana Tree conversions.

At year end, assets under construction included Banana Tree conversions in Greenwich, Bath, and Henley, that all opened in November 2023.

The group ended the financial year with 158 restaurants, following the opening of two new Las Iguanas and the closure of seven restaurants that either had lease trigger events or an exit negotiated with the landlord. Four Café Rouge, two Bella Italia, and one Mulberry site were closed.

Acquisition from TRG

During the period, Big Table acquired The Restaurant Group’s (TRG) non-core brands, including 75 sites under the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands among others, for a consideration of £1 as well as a £7.5m cash injection by TRG, which “together with transition mechanics has enabled a strong working capital build.”

According to Big Table’s latest accounts on Companies House: “There is a profit conversion differential to our existing sites, which provides an opportunity to improve the profitability of the acquired sites. Our success over the last two years in existing sites provides a solid playbook for delivering significant improvements on cost base inflation and labour management improvements in newly acquired sites. Within the first few periods of trading, we have already seen material green shoot opportunities.

“This is an exciting opportunity with ability to leverage group synergies, deliver profitable growth and maximise our estate and brands.”

In addition to the material growth opportunities within these sites, Big Table will test several conversions over the year.

Current trading

The current financial year started with subdued November trading, with the sector seeing covers decline vs the prior year.

Trading picked up during the festive season, with December sales ahead of the prior year.

While the impact of inflation continues, the group has started to see signs of reduction in areas including meat, poultry, dessert, cheese, and dairy. It remains confident it can continue mitigating inflation by working with existing and new suppliers.

Big Table’s energy costs are fully hedged for the year ahead and partly hedged thereafter, with the ability to trade its position to improve its cost base.

The group has a strong cash balance and no bank debt, and is therefore not exposed to the increasing cost of debt.

“Our strengthened trading performance and strong economic model, together with the recent acquisition of 75 additional sites, provides a great platform for growth in 2024 and beyond. Our portfolio of brands targets wide demographics, which together with our national geographic spread provides a balanced estate that is not overly concentrated or dependent on a particular market or geography.”