Pizza Express sees growth despite ‘challenging conditions’

Pizza Express saw its group turnover increase 1.6% to £543m for the 52 weeks ended 30 December 2018.

In the UK and Ireland underlying like-for-like sales grew 0.1% excluding the impact from adverse weather (down 1.0% unadjusted) while internationally, the Italian chain’s total sales were up 8.4% when compared with 2017.

However, due to sector-wide cost headwinds in the UK and “challenging conditions” in some of the chain’s “less mature” international markets, group EBITDA was down 15.3% to £80.2m.

During the year Pizza Express expanded its company-owned estate to 104 with the opening of 26 new restaurants in 2018 and its international markets now generate just under 20% of group sales.

The company also invested £1m future growth across brand, people, technology and product, with some of the funds going towards the opening of its Global Innovation Centre in London, to enable the company to accelerate the development of new products such as vegan and gluten-free menus as well as seasonal ranges.

Jinlong Wang, group chairman and CEO of PizzaExpress, said: “Although 2018 was a challenging year for the casual dining sector, we are pleased with the overall group revenue growth of +1.6%. Sector-wide labour and property cost increases in the UK combined with more challenging conditions in some of our less mature International markets resulted however in a 15.3% decline in group EBITDA.

“In the UK and Ireland, the unexpected snow in the first half of the year and sustained period of heat in the second half impacted the whole industry. Outside these periods of extreme weather, we were pleased with our resilient underlying like-for-like sales growth of +0.1%, which includes a strong Christmas performance.”

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