Individual Restaurants emerges from the post-Covid years as a “better and bigger business,” according to CEO Andrew Garton.

“We’re a better version of ourselves; fit for the future and investing in becoming even better,” Garton tells MCA.

The Piccolino, Piccolo, Riva Blu and Restaurant Bar & Grill brand operator put a EBITDA loss of £6.1m in 2023 down to widespread lethargy coming out of the pandemic, whilst cost-of-living pressures adversely impacted the market.

“It is no secret that many businesses lost money. But we’re not losing money now and we’re in good shape,” Garton explains.

Individual Restaurants, which operates 31 sites, has been under the ownership of Sir Malcolm Walker and Tarsem Dhaliwal, founder and managing director of Iceland Foods, since 2020. 

Joining the business in January 2023, Garton says that today, the group is growing sales and covers, and has been focused on improving its propositions across all four brands.

A “record Christmas” saw 20% year-on-year sales growth, whilst other calendar highlights such as Valentines’ Day and Mother’s Day achieved like-for-like growth of 28% and 30% respectively.

“Momentum is very strong for us,” Garton adds, as he looks towards two new openings in the home counties.

This summer, the group will expand its core “classic Italian dining” concept with new Piccolino sites set for Henley-on-Thames and Marlow.


A 5,000 sq ft restaurant, located in the Market Square, Henley, is set to open in June following a £2m renovation, with a river walk entrance, bar area, a winterised courtyard and private dining room.

Nearby, the Marlow Bar & Grill will be undergoing a £500,000 renovation to reopen as a Piccolino in July. The group’s Piccolino restaurant in Virginia Waters will also be undergoing a refurbishment. 

Buoyed by recent performance in Surrey, Garton explains “We’re actively looking for sites in the home counties, and those commuter belts around the M25,” adding that London itself is “performing exceptionally strongly.”

Future sites will portray a “new version” of the brand; an “authentic Italian dining experience” which foregrounds its premium approach, enhanced menu, and interiors characterised by elegant brass ceilings and marble floors.

“We want to achieve a clear, rounded identity for our businesses,” says Garton.

Meanwhile, the Restaurant Bar & Grill brand will look to cement its positioning as an “immersive experience delivered in iconic buildings”, focused on “fantastic bars and food,” as it continues to search for new sites.

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Equally, Neapolitan-inspired Riva Blu is a brand that will continue to grow, the 4-strong concept characterised as offering “big personality, southern Italian dining”, attracting a “younger crowd.” Therefore, Metropolitan cities remain a geographical focus.

Piccolo, a ‘younger sibling’ to Piccolino, which currently operates in three sites in Leeds, Manchester and Hull, is not a brand which Individual Restaurants currently has ambitions to grow.

Garton teases potential for a fresh brand to join the estate but is tight-lipped about a “new opportunity” on the horizon.

“We are fortunately privately-owned and so we continue to invest,” he says, reporting a £9m investment into the core estate in FY24 and a similar level investment planned for this financial year. “I am talking about us being a better and bigger business. We’re not just chasing new space at the expense of not investing in what we’ve got.

Driving loyalty

In January, the group launched a new loyalty programme, Club IR, which has “revolutionised” the way it rewards guests, moving away from a points-based system.

With 80,000 currently signed up, Garton says the scheme continues to grow “exponentially.”

“What was really important to us was actually making guests feel special, and offering experiences both in restaurant and out-of-home.”

Club IR offers three tiers: club, black and diamond, offering “personalised value” across these settings. “This is about how we bring our personality and hospitality to you,” with sommelier at home experiences, seats at sporting events and international trip packages up for grabs.

Part of the company’s future proofing coincides with an ambition to become a more “data-driven organisation.”

“The last twelve months has been about setting ourselves up for success. One of the tangible benefits [of Club IR] for us, clearly is about guest frequency and loyalty.

“Although the primary objective isn’t about getting personalised data, we are now making data-driven decisions around brand building, driving trade, as well as investing significantly in our reservations platform,” Garton adds.