Gusto, the Palatine-backed restaurant chain, has opened its first restaurant in the South of England, with plans for further expansion across the region over the next 12 months.

Already established across the North West, Yorkshire, Midlands and Scotland, Gusto opened its first London-based restaurant in Chislehurst on the former Oriel site this summer and said it has begun its search for further sites inside the M25 and surrounding South East area.

“2017 has been incredibly exciting for Gusto and we are thrilled to be moving into new areas,” said Sue Crimes, managing director at Gusto. “We see real opportunity to grow our brand in the London area and South East and are aiming to open three more Gusto restaurants in the region in the next 18 months.”

A spokesman told MCA that the company’s 18-strong estate was “trading well in what is widely accepted is a tough market and Christmas bookings are looking good”.

The Chislehurst opening has created more than 50 jobs in the local area, following a £700k investment to transform the building into Gusto’s signature style.

Crimes continued: “We’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response to our Chislehurst venue - it’s a great location for our clientele and at the heart of a growing food and drink scene in the area.

“We have always intended to grow our presence in the region, and over the past few months we have visited a number of fantastic established and emerging locations that would be ideal to open a Gusto restaurant. There is such a great variety of venues, we’ve got our work cut out to find the perfect ones.”