The Restaurant Group (TRG), operator of the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito chains, has this morning revealed a 3.5% fall in like-for-like sales (LFLs) for the 34 weeks to 23 August 2009. Announcing interim results for 26 weeks ending 28 June, the group, which also runs Garfunkels and the pub brands Brunning & Price and Bluebeckers, said adjusted ebitda had grown by 3% to £36.3m, up from £35.3m the year before. TRG said it was “confident of another year of progress in 2009” and added that the LFLs decline was set against strong comparative sales. Revenue increased by 3% to £210m, as too did adjusted profit before tax, up from £21.1m for the period in 2008 to £21.7m. Andrew Page, chief executive, said: “These are good results, with sales, profits and earnings per share all increasing. “Our strategic market positioning combined with a clear focus on value, margins, service and hospitality has enabled the group to make further profitable progress during 2009, despite the severe economic downturn.” TRG said that operations had been strongly cash generative – meaning the group had reduced its net debt by £10m since the year-end to £69m. It has a £120m committed banking facility in place until 2012. The company’s leisure division, which accounted for £172.m of sales, achieved an operating profit of £32.2m. The 182 Frankie & Benny’s Italian restaurants traded well in the period. TRG said margins had held up “as a result of good cost control and focusing on delivering great hospitality and service.” It opened four new Frankie & Benny’s during the six months and it expected to open between four and eight new sites in the second half. Profits at Chiquito however suffered following a decrease in margins, which was blamed on the introduction of a new competitively priced lunchtime menu. The Mexican concept has 60 sites and the group said it wanted to open between two and four in the remainder of the year. TRG said that Garfunkel’s had performed “superbly” in the first half. It said: “Most of our Garfunkel’s restaurants operate from prominent central London locations and have enjoyed a strong and sustained trade during the first half of the year and this trend has continued into the second half. “This has produced a significant increase in profits and represents an outstanding return on the capital employed in this brand.” The group admitted it was looking at a small number of London sites for the further expansion of the casual dining brand and said a recently redeveloped Garfunkel’s on London’s Tottenham Court Road was trading strongly. Of its 44 pub restaurants, Brunning & Price had delivered an “exceptionally strong performance” and it would continue to move its Bluebecker restaurants over to this less formal style concept. The group’s concessions division achieved an operating profit of £5.1m and sales of £37.5m and had been heavily impacted by a fall in passenger numbers, added TRG. TRG said it did not expect an imminent return of high volume passenger numbers, but it had been able to mitigate this via a combination of market share gains and tight cost controls. Adjusted earnings per share grew by 4% to 7.49p and the group paid an interim dividend of 1.4p per share.