Azzurri Group reports annual sales uplift with 2020 focus on food-to-go sites

Italian casual dining company, Azzurri Group, which operates Zizzi, ASK Italian, Coco di Mama and Radio Alice brands, has reported financial results for the year ended 30 June 2019.

Group sales rose by 7% year-on-year to £299.4m, driven by new openings in the UK, RoI and China, as well as like-for-like sales growth across all four brands.

Adjusted EBITDA increased 3% from £37m to £38.1m, and effective management of cost pressures across the casual dining sector are reflected in the slightly lower EBITDA margin of 12.7% compared to 13.2% in the previous year.

The group has continued to invest in both estate expansion to reach new customers and in refurbishments to ensure that existing restaurants remain appealing and deliver good returns.
During the period, the company saw 10 new openings and 29 refurbishments. There were restaurant launched in international locations, including a third site in RoI and first site opening in Shanghai.

Coco di Mama saw an accelerated expansion with the acquisition of up to 13 Pod sites, Four Pod sites have been converted to Coco di Mama, and all are trading ahead of expectations.

Azzurri's focus for 2020 is on continued refurbishments, food innovation and accelerating conversions of Pod sites to Coco di Mama.

Steve Holmes, CEO of Azzurri Group, commented, “I am pleased to announce that 2019 was a good year for Azzurri, with growth in both revenue and profit. We built on last year’s momentum as a leading operator in the Italian casual dining sector and expanded our presence in the food-to-go market.

'I am pleased that over the last year all four brands grew like-for-like sales and increased their EBITDA and we have made good progress in rolling-out new restaurants.

“Cost pressures in the UK remain an ongoing challenge for the sector, and although Azzurri is not immune, the Group has made adjusted EBITDA improvement and continued to trade well through these difficult conditions. We remain conscious of the current cost environment and continue to take a thoughtful approach to increased operational efficiencies.'

Holmes continued, “We have invested significantly in our estate both in the UK and internationally, with a further £20m of capital expenditure this year. Our number of sites now totals 311, with further estate expansion of 10 new openings, including Zizzi’s third site in Ireland and first site opened in Shanghai.

'We are pleased with early trading and customer feedback has been positive at these new restaurants. We have also completed 29 restaurant refurbishments to ensure that we continue to appeal to customers and drive footfall to our restaurants.'

Holmes noted, “This was a milestone year for Zizzi, celebrating our 20th birthday and opening our first restaurant in Shanghai. The business delivered growth in both sales and profit and we are pleased that the proposition continues to resonate with customers in the UK and now in China too.

' Our Zizzi restaurants have seen the vast majority of our investment with 17 restaurants undergoing transformation this year. This year was also important as it marked the reopening of our Salisbury restaurant and we have been delighted with the positive response.

“ASK Italian made good progress in the year in terms of both sales and profit. The business continued to attract new customers with a combination of outstanding service and truly authentic Italian dishes. We are constantly evolving our menus to create new customer favourites such as Black & White Ravioli, a winning combination of Beef and Chianti with black and white pasta.

'Our focus on delighting customers meant that in 2019 we were the fastest growing brand in the CGA Brand Tracking Index of the biggest casual dining brands in the UK.'

Holmes explained, “This has been a transformational year for Coco di Mama, with solid profit progression and strong returns on our investment. Customers continue to love our hero products of made-to-order pasta and speciality coffee, as well as new categories like gelato and ‘black ice’ lattes.

'We opened two new stores in the year and were delighted to acquire up to 13 Pod sites, which set us up well for accelerated growth in the future. Since the end of the financial year we have converted four Pod sites into Coco di Mama, all of which have seen exceptional early trading. We have a robust pipeline of new stores to convert into Coco di Mama over the next year and are excited about our prospects for this business.

“The last year has been all about building brand awareness and increasing footfall to our Radio Alice restaurants. We are pleased to have opened a third restaurant in London this year, which is located in the heart of the Canary Wharf.'

Holmes ended, “Against the continuing challenges in the UK, we have an exciting pipeline of conversions and refurbishments ahead and are focussed on expanding our presence, particularly in the food-to-go market.”