Negative like for like sales might not seem like an ideal trading position for the eponymous brand of Revolution Bar Group.

But for CEO Rob Pitcher, the 0.4% contraction is part of a wider positive trajectory for the brand, which has in the last weeks entered positive growth.

The longer picture is of a leading bar brand suffering a torrid time in a challenging market, with like for likes down 7.3% in the eight week period this time last year.

With a much more positive outlook this year, Pitcher told MCA the team was “very happy” with the results.

“Revolution has been coming back from a weak position 18 months ago, falling just short in the half year, but the trajectory says it will be in growth”, he tells MCA.

As the core brand emerges from a difficult period, second concept Revolución de Cuba is in a stronger position, with like for likes up 5% for the 26 weeks ended 28 December 2019.

This sales growth has driven a +10.6% improvement in EBITDA to £7.6 million across the group.

Meanwhile gross bank debt has reduced by £6m over H1 to £11.5m and is £7.0m lower than at the end of H1 FY19.

“Revolution has started to perform very strongly, and is back in volume growth for food,” Pitcher says.

“At the key Saturday night trading period we’ve been stealing market share for the last six months

“Our last 2 new sites which we opened in Durham and Glasgow are performing exceptionally well. 12-18 months

“The refurbished sites which we did over the last 12 months are continuing to perform very well with a return on investment of about 45%, so we’re very pleased with the progress of that brand.”

Despite good growth momentum, it is not all rosy at Revolución, the brand which appeals to a broader age than Revolution’s younger-skewed demographic.

Three new sites opened in 2019 have been “disappointing” so far, leading to a £9.5m impairment charge on the assets - though Pitcher insists they will not give up on these sites.

“Up until this point we had a 100% strike rate on Revolución de Cuba, but these are taking longer to mature than others”, Pitcher explains.

“It’s a less well-known brand, and when you land in a city that hasn’t had one before, it takes longer for people to discover it. These three are taking even longer than we’re used to seeing, so we’ve taken an impairment on them to allow for that.

“We’re certainly not giving up on these sites, we do see a future for them. They’re just going to take a lot longer to get there.”

Meanwhile, the five leases that were surrendered have been exchanged and are due to complete at the end of March.

Pitcher adds: “Sales have continued to build in both brands, and since the period closed, during the last eight weeks of trading, the fact Revolution has returned to growth, and has seen a 10% growth in profits in the first half, given industry backdrop, is a very strong achievement from the team.”