The owner of Franco Manca and the Real Greek restaurants posted a jump in revenues on Friday as sales increased since coronavirus restrictions on dining were lifted.
Group revenues at Fulham Shore (FUL.L) soared 103% in its first full week of dining with minimal restrictions, it said in a statement on Friday.
Company bosses said 71 out of 73 sites have reopened and that, on a like-for-like basis, sales in the first week were at 92% of levels in the same period in 2019 — pre-pandemic.
"This recent sales performance is very encouraging despite the restaurants having restricted capacity due to social distancing," the company said.
Watch: Franco Manca owner pushes ahead with expansion after 'very encouraging' reopening
The restaurant chain owner also added Franco Manca loyalty scheme user numbers have doubled since the first lockdown in March 2020 to over 220,000.
Shares in the company rose as much as 4.4% to 16.4p on Friday morning, before retreating back.
Fulham Shore is also eyeing expansion as a result of the swift return of customers in strong numbers, having previously said it expects opportunities to open up with rivals going bust during the crisis.
"As a result of this trading performance, the group continues to plan the opening pipeline for the next three years. Our property team is travelling around the UK looking for new properties and we have a number of sites that are currently in legal negotiations," it said.
Despite that, sites in London’s Covent Garden remain shut due to a lack of tourists, but it aims to reopen at the beginning of June, it added.
The company along with others in the hospitality sector was hit hard during the COVID pandemic as it was forced to shut stores for long periods.
Sales fell 44.9% to £19.9m ($28.2m) with a pre-tax loss of £4.3m, at its last set of results for the six months to 27 September 2020.
The news comes as Britain's hospitality sector is struggling with staff shortages as it reopens, forcing pubs and restaurants to offer cash sweeteners to lure workers.
UK pubs and restaurants have blamed both the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit for staff shortages across the industry. The problem has become particularly acute since indoor dining resumed last week as part of the next stage of Britain’s roadmap out of lockdown.
Experts have said the jobs crisis could derail the hospitality sector's recovery from the pandemic, if staffing shortages continue.
Last month, job postings in some parts of the hospitality industry rose 20% above pre-pandemic levels. Jack Kennedy, a UK economist at job listings website Indeed, said: "In some areas the number of candidates isn’t keeping up.”
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