The owner of restaurant chains Franco Manca and The Real Greek is going ahead with expansion plans after “very encouraging” trading since the lifting of restrictions on indoor hospitality.

Fulham Shore said sales in the first full week following the reopening on 17 May were at 92% of those before the pandemic in 2019, on a like-for-like comparison.

That was despite restaurants operating on a limited capacity due to social distancing rules.

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The Real Greek restaurant Windsor - undated photo handout from Fulham Shore - sent 28/5/21
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The Real Greek chain is also part of the group. Pic: Fulham Shore

“As a result of this trading performance, the group continues to plan the opening pipeline for the next three years,” the company said.

“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.”

The group said 71 out of its 73 restaurants were now open with two in London’s Covent Garden still shut as the area is still devoid of tourists, though they are due to resume trading next month.

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Shares rose 5% on the update.

Separately on Friday, Scottish soft drinks maker AG Barr – best known for its Irn Bru brand – said the easing of lockdowns has had a positive impact.

Its Funkin brand of cocktail mixers have started to see the benefits through sales to hospitality firms “that provide optimism for the sector’s recovery”, the group said.

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‘Absolutely critical’ for hospitality to unlock on 21 June

Restaurant operators are trying to rebuild trade after struggling to survive over the past year with lockdown restrictions keeping them closed for much of the time.

Earlier this week, The Restaurant Group – owner of chains including Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s – said it had seen a “very encouraging recovery” as restrictions started to ease.

Figures compiled by booking website OpenTable for the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show reservations were a third up on 2019 levels in the week after the reopening of indoor hospitality.

But Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, told Sky News that it was “absolutely critical” that remaining restrictions are dropped on 21 June.

With table service only in pubs and social distancing rules limiting numbers, some are operating at a loss while others have still not resumed trading.

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