Casual Dining Group (CDG) has signed a franchise deal giving exclusive rights to its Las Iguanas and Bella Italia brands in the Republic of Ireland to experienced restaurateur, Robert O’Donoghue.

This latest agreement sees the number of CDG franchise partners rise to five, with development agreements or existing operations in place in eight countries across the globe, including the UK, South Africa, India and the wider Middle East.

Under the deal, the first site to open will be a Las Iguanas in either Dublin or Cork in the new-year, with further restaurants opening as and when the right sites become available.

Steve Richards, chief executive of CDG, told MCA last month that the company will focus on growing its international presence over the coming 12-18 months, as it slows its expansion in the UK.

Mark Nelson, managing director of Concessions and Franchising, Casual Dining Group, said: “We have several brands that have cut their teeth in the UK and are now earning their stripes across the globe.

“Ireland was a natural fit for a franchise partner, due to its cultural similarities with the UK. We’re delighted to have an experienced, hands-on operator like Robert flying the flag for our Las Iguanas and Bella Italia brands, and we look forward to helping support his business as it looks to grow.”

O’Donoghue, who has over a decade experience as a restaurant operator, currently owns and oversees the day-to-day running of four independent sites in Dublin and Cork for his Caffe Misto and Kubo brands.

Robert O’Donoghue said: “Casual Dining Group operates excellent household brands and possesses a wealth of knowledge and expertise. There’s a massive opportunity for its brands in Ireland and I’m delighted to be working together to create exceptional dining experiences across the country.

“I have fond memories of eating at Bella Italia when I visited the UK as a younger days and recently dined at Las Iguanas on a trip to London. I love both concepts and am confident their look, feel and atmosphere are the perfect match for Ireland.

“Naturally, Dublin and Cork will be the focus for the first openings, but if the right sites are available I’d also be interested in targeting other areas of the Republic of Ireland, particularly Galway.”