Various Eateries continues to prioritise the integrity of its brands over short-term profit, in the hope this will position the business well for substantial growth once market conditions improve.

The Coppa Club and Noci operator grew sales by grew 10.2% to £22.7m in the 26-week period ending 31 March 2024, driven largely by new site openings.

However, group like-for-like sales were marginally down, against a backdrop of wet winter weather, and the company maintaining its strategy of absorbing most price increases.

While this strategy puts “temporary pressure on margins”, executive chairman Andy Bassadone said, “We remain steadfast in our approach, prioritising the preservation of the integrity of our brands over short-term financial gain, confident that this strategy strengthens our capacity for sustainable and profitable long-term growth.”

The group’s financial position remains strong, with cash at bank of £7.2m as at 31 March 2024 (H1 2023: £3.1m).

It has been encouraged by the deceleration of food and utilities cost increases, but noted a primary expense challenge this year is expected to stem from the largest ever minimum wage rate increases.

To mitigate inflationary pressures while enhancing the overall customer experience, management continues to actively explore initiatives such as at-table digital ordering at some sites.

Looking forward, trading at the start of the second half has been “resilient”, despite the uncharacteristically wet and dull weather, and management is optimistic ahead of the important summer trading months.

While there are signs the macroeconomic picture is improving, the landscape “continues to require careful navigation,” it said.

Bassadone added, “We are seeing the goodwill generated in our communities translate into customers returning time-and-time again, knowing they can rely on us to continue to provide a high quality and affordable experience where others are making compromises.

”With several key operational enhancements made to our estate in the period, we firmly believe Various Eateries is well-positioned to grow into one of the UK’s leading hospitality groups, and enter the second half with a growing sense of optimism.”

Noci Richmond opened its doors in May 2024, consistent with the group’s near-term strategy to focus expansion primarily on the specialist quality pasta concept in and around London.

The brand’s fourth site, has a similar profile to Noci Islington and is expected to see a similar positive sales trajectory as the venue beds in.

Meanwhile, Coppa Club Cardiff remains on track to open later this month. The pipeline for further new locations is “strong” with high levels of premium site availability and a keenness on the part of landlords, according to the group.