Gioma, the pan-European restaurant group which runs the Gaucho Grill and Down Mexico Way brands, plans to open eight new restaurants during 2000 at a cost of around £7.1m.

The news comes on the back of improved pre-tax profits up from £400,000 in 1998 to £800,000 for year ending 31 December 1999. Turnover increased from £2.6m to £7.8m in the same period.

The improvement resulted from the opening of three new sites and acquisition of 23 existing operations from its parent company during the year, bringing its total up to 29.

It saw continued strong brand performance, particularly in the UK.

The new openings will include two Gaucho Grills for the UK, one in London's Canary Wharf and the other in Manchester with plans for two in Amsterdam and one in Rotterdam. Three Down Mexico Way restaurants will also open, the first in Glasgow with two in the Netherlands set to open in the second half of the year.

The group's estate comprises five sites in the UK, 17 in the Netherlands and seven in Switzerland. It sees growth for Gaucho Grill in these three markets plus Ireland, and sees potential for Down Mexico Way in major European cities.