Groupe Chez Gérard has unveiled plans to double its size this financial year with the opening of 20 restaurants.

It will expand Chez Gérard and Livebait outside London after its satisfaction with the performance of outlets in Manchester and Bristol.

The company will start work next month on a Chez Gérard in Cambridge and a Livebait in Oxford. It will open 12 new sites outside the capital by Christmas, including Leeds, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Nottingham and Bath. Six have already opened this financial year. Two sites in Brighton will open early 2002.

The news came on the announcement of half-year pre-tax profits excluding exceptionals up 4% to £2.1m on turnover up 1.5% to £19.6m. Like-for-like sales in core brands grew 2.5%.

The company said it did not anticipate any significant problems from foot-and-mouth disease.

It said several Signature restaurants would be refurbished in the near futures and Soho Soho would get a big overhaul.

The company is keeping an eye on City Centre Restaurants, which has been tipped as a possible break-up candidate.