Tragus, the operator of the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Strada brands, has reported a 9% drop in full year ebitda, with like-for-like sales down for the third consecutive year on the back of weak consumer spending and pressure on margins. Ebitda for the year to 29 May stood at £41.2m, down from £45.3m the previous year, with like-for-like sales down 2.6% across its estate. Turnover rose slightly by 2% to £277.4m. The 295-strong group invested £19.6m during the year on 11 new openings, refurbishments and maintenance. Graham Turner, chief executive, told M&C Report that trading since the year end had continued in a similar vein. He said: “It’s tough out there for the whole sector. Why would it be any different? Consumers are getting further squeezed due to increased taxation and price inflation, and there continues to be uncertainty about the where the economy is heading. I can’t see there being any dramatic improvement in the medium term. However, we continue to invest in and grow our estate. “Profitability during the year has been adversely affected by margin pressure and the closure of sites being refurbished. However the business has delivered strong cash flows, which were reinvested in eleven new sites and the on-going investment in our estate including the major refurbishment of Strada.” The Blackstone-backed group said it remained highly-cash generative with net cash flow from operation of £42m and available liquidity of £70m. Tragus plans to invest a further c.£13m on opening 17 new restaurants in its current financial year, which will take its estate pass the 300 mark. It recently launched a new format for its Café Rouge brand in London’s Villers Street. It also opened a fast-casual version of the brand, Café Rouge Express at Euston Station. Turner said that both formats were still being developed but he was hoping to test the new look at a site outside London in the new year. The group currently operates 124 sites under the brand. He said that the performance of the 85-strong Bella Italia estate had been “resilient over the last few years” as customers were drawn to its “comfort food-like” offer. Turner said: “With our strong breadth of brands and attractive customer offer we are well placed to benefit from the increasing trend for casual dining and eating out.”