Customers will continue to go out and socialise with friends this year despite job fears and the stagnant economy, according to the boss of Novus Leisure. The Tiger Tiger owner said that although these occasions may well become more causal in nature, unless unemployment rockets, people will continue to social in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK. Novus chief executive Steve Richards told M&C Report that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the coming year, especially as 80% of the group’s 38 bars are located in London’s West End or City – areas likely to fare reasonably well even with public sector job cuts. The operator will launch three new sites in the first half of the year – two in London (Institute and Foundation) and another in Glasgow called Mansion House (formerly a Tiger Tiger). Releasing record results for the six weeks to the New Year, Richards said the team at Novus had been disappointed, as without the snow that froze parts of the UK during the period the performance would have been even stronger. Despite this, in the six weeks to 2 January the group still saw like-for-like sales jump 7.9%, and Richards said this was not due to weak comparatives from last year. Tiger Tiger saw like-for-like sales growth of 3% with food accounting for 37% of sales. Novus group profit surged 17% as a result. Novus suffered few cancellations – unlike rivals – as the scale of many of its pre-bookings – driven by its websites- meant clients were loathe to cancel and rescheduled or went ahead with Christmas parties, where possible, despite the snow.