Prezzo executive chairman Karen Jones has told MCA that a refurbishment programme under a new look and design will be the priority for 2019, with a target of around half the estate.

Jones said elements of the new look were currently being trialled at a number of locations, with the final design still a work in progress.

The Café Rouge co-founder, who joined Prezzo five months ago, was speaking after the brand’s main trading entity Prezzo Limited reported an operating loss of £65m for the full year to 31 December 2017, after a CVA process led to more than 100 closures.

On the ongoing transformation plan, introduced under her predecessor Jon Hendry-Pickup, Jones said it was still the beginning of the journey, but said there were encouraging indications from trail sites and from customers.

She said changes to the look, as well as food and drink, would be an “evolution not a revolution”, and would aim to maintain Prezzo’s relationship with its core customers.

Jones said: “I think we have a really good plan in place. It’s going to be a journey, and we’re only at the beginning of that.

“We want to make some bold moves, we want to be different and do better. We have a very ambitious refurbishment programme for the next year. After 18 years you need to rethink some aspects of it.

“In 2018 we will probably touch about half the estate. We are also trialling a new look, feel and design, and using that as a test bed

“It’s really encouraging and shows a clear path to the future. It’s not just a paint job - the customers should come and find something truly better.”

Prezzo Limited reported revenues of £211.6m and an operating profit (excluding non-trading items) of £6.6m for the year to 31 December 2017.

Due to a non-cash write-off primarily relating to the write-down of the underperforming sites and concepts which formed part of the CVA in 2018, Prezzo Limited reported an operating loss of £65m for 2017.

On changes at the brand, Jones added: “It’s an evolution not a revolution. We want to keep what people love about Prezzo, but bring it up to date so hopefully they’ll love it for another 18 years

“Matching together what we do really well and what we’re known for – pasta, pizza and prosecco – with current trends and some innovation.

“There’s no question where we sit in the marketplace, and who our customers are, and we want to be the very best quality we can be for Italian dining in that marketplace – that’s one of our aims.

“NPS are going in the right direction, but there’s still a long way to go. Its something we focus on every day.”