Gondola Group, the private equity backed company behind Pizza Express, has reported a 6.5% increase in underlying earnings to £122.4m. The company, which also runs Byron, the hamburger chain, and Zizzi, said full year sales had improved by 7% to £545m. However, the company made a pre-tax loss of £45.3m, following interest charges on its debts of £96m. In The Times this morning, Harvey Smyth, Gondola’s chief executive, is reported as saying he can see scope for a further 200 Pizza Express sites in the UK. He was speaking follow the launch of its next generation style of Pizza Express restaurants in Richmond. The company hired Ab Rogers, the designer who revitalised Little Chef, to re-energise Pizza Express's atmosphere and the chain's marble-topped tables were swept away in favour of booths topped by floating domes under which diners can control their own music and lighting, striped tableware, bright red pepper grinders and blue glasses. The Richmond restaurant also opens for service at 8.45am, more than two hours earlier than usual, to attract the breakfast and morning coffee crowd. Commenting on rumours that a brand would have to leave Gondola as it reaches its deadline for a £544m refinancing at the end of 2012, Smyth told The Times: “There are rumours about us all the time. The reality is we’re focused on growing the business and I’m more confident about that than ever.”