La Tasca, the casual dining group, has for the first time unveiled like-for-like sales figures for its core La Tasca business. Reporting first-half numbers the group, which operates La Vina and Sam & Maxie's alongside its eponymous brand, said that current trading had improved significantly and that Christmas bookings were ahead of last year. For the first six months, like-for-like sales were up 2.6%, excluding the five weeks of the World Cup, and ahead 1% taking the tournament into consideration. The group said it incurred losses of £0.4m associated with the football competition and a further £0.45m losses because of delays to new site openings. James Horler, chief executive, said the company had decided to publish comparable figures to clarify the trading position of the group's mature restaurants. He said: “There has been some comment that the core was going backwards. This is clearly not the case and we just wanted to demonstrate how it was performing.” The group said it was maintaining a level of return on investment above its desired target of 26%. Six new restaurants opened in the first half - two La Tasca outlets in the UK, one in America, one La Vina and two Sam & Maxie's. It plans to open six outlets in the second half, including its fifth La Tasca restaurant in the US, in Rockville, Maryland, next April. Horler said the group was seeking a partner to help fund and develop its expansion in the US, and hoped to announce a partner by the year end. Ebitda rose 15.4% to £4.6m on sales up 19.5% to £32.2m. Profits at a pre-tax level were £2.2m.