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Las Iguanas to expand in coming years

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UK restaurant chain Las Iguanas has announced plans for a major period of expansion over the coming years as it attempts to stamp its authority on the market and launch several new sites, it has claimed.

This follows the news that the casual dining firm enjoyed "encouraging" pre-Christmas trading, with increased turnover and profit for 2012 as a whole.

The company currently has 28 restaurants across the UK and revealed a 13 per cent rise in total sales to £33.8 million for the 53 weeks to March 31st 2012, reports Caterer and Hotelkeeper.

Some of this increase can be attributed to the fact that Las Iguanas opened three new sites over this period, at Westfield Stratford, Sheffield Meadowhall and Newcastle, as well as installing kitchen equipment in three addition establishments after March.

Launched in Bristol in 1991, Las Iguanas started off as a one-off eatery hoping to draw on South American and Latin flavours to fill a gap in the UK's restaurant market.

It has enjoyed rapid expansion since then but attempted to remain true to its original independent roots by working with native South American businesses, using GM-free produce as far as possible and bringing a good level of sustainability and staff development to each of its new establishments.

Eren Ali, chief executive of the company, expressed his delight at how the company performed in 2012, especially in the relatively challenging climate faced by many restaurant businesses over the last 12 months.

"This, together with an excellent pipeline of new sites, leaves Las Iguanas well positioned to deliver another period of further progress," he added.

However, many of these launches are expected to take place in 2014 rather than 2013 following a rash of delays.

"We are on agreed terms on a number of developments that are slipping behind. These key developments are having trouble raising the finance," the chief executive explained.

With the funding situation for many casual dining firms rather difficult at the moment, it is understandable that Las Iguanas are planning to put off their major expansion until the financial situation begins to improve across the UK.

"We've got to be on the right high street, of course ... It is really difficult getting that right. The site that we opened in Newcastle recently took us two years to do a deal on," he concluded.

Given the competitive nature of the UK's casual dining market it is obvious that location will play an increasingly important role in how firms choose to expand over the coming years.

Las Iguanas is not the only South American-influenced chain to enjoy a period of growth, with Argentinean steakhouse chain Cau also planning to open two new eateries in 2013.

Cau's new Cambridge eatery will officially open in January next year and is set to cater for up to 130 diners, while its second site will be based in a riverside restaurant development overlooking the River Thames.

With boutique South American sites like Sabor also catering to UK foodies, it seems the trend for Latin-tinged dishes in the UK is unlikely to fade in the near future.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801504620-ADNFCR

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