Bar and restaurant entrepreneur Tim Bacon has told how he thinks the sector can weather any economic downturn and that he does not believe people will stop eating out.

He says that upmarket niches will have a better prospect of doing well in the current economic climate - because they differ from larger chain restaurants.

Managing director Bacon started his Living Room concept of eateries in 1999 and more recently Living Room Venture Restaurants acquired 16 Est Est Est sites from the Restaurant Group for £28.5m.

The company has set out about converting them into Gusto, Italian restaurant, and Blackhouse Grill concepts, serving steak and sea food.

The last two sites are now being rebranded and Bacon believes he has identified three more in London, Manchester and Liverpool.

He said: “The sector we are targeting is premium aspirational. I don’t think people are going to stop eating out once or twice a week.

“Some of the other more aspirational concepts are doing well. I am a great believer in people needing to have a ‘third place’.

“People have their work and their home and need a third place. It could be anything from a restaurant to a pub. If you can create a third place atmosphere, you can get a very loyal customer base.

“Our Blackhouse Grill in Smithfield market, London, for example was up 30% last year.

“Gusto is showing like-for-like sales increases of 24%, year on year, while Blackhouse is doing 14%. The key thing is to give customers an experience.”