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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Cafe group steps up sale programme
Caffe Uno logo
Caffe Uno: high staff turnover contributed to a 15% drop in profits
The new chief of the troubled restaurant giant which owns Deep Pan Pizza and Garfunkel's has pledged to step up a brand sell-off in a bid to reverse a profits slide.

Alan Jackson, appointed chairman of City Centre Restaurants last week, pledged to focus the firm around its "high performance" chains as the firm reported a 15% drop in profits from Caffe Uno outlets, and a 22% slump in earnings at Est Est Est restaurants.

It is my firm intention that in the future we will operate fewer brands

Alan Jackson, chairman, City Centre Restaurants

City Centre Restaurants, which in November rejected a takeover offer from rival PizzaExpress, revealed on Wednesday that is has already sold its OK Diner restaurants to the chain's managers.

"It is my firm intention that in the future we will operate fewer brands, this being achieved through the disposal of non-core operations," Mr Jackson said.

"The board will continue to review all options available to enhance shareholder value."

Difficult conditions

While the year has "started well" for the company's Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's chains, other brands have continued to find trading conditions "difficult".

Andrew Guy, chief executive since October, blamed "ill conceived menu changes and very weak management" for the slide in earnings at Est Est Est in 2000.

High staff turnover and a decline in like-for-like sales contributed to the poor performance at the 68-strong Caffe Uno chain.

And an earnings slump which saw Deep Pan Pizza run at a 854,000 loss last year, compared with a 788,000 profit in 1999, has prompted City Centre to downgrade its estimate of the chain's value.

New teams

Mr Guy attributed the loss to restaurants which were sold over the course of last year, plus six other outlets earmarked for disposal.

Performance at the ailing chains is being improved by new management teams installed in recent months.

"We are confident that with new senior managers recently appointed to each of them, and a recovery strategy in place, we can greatly better the performance of the group," Mr Jackson said.

Overall, City Centre revealed pre-tax profits down 11% to 15.9m for the year to 31 December, on turnover up 6% to 217m.

TGI Friday king

Mr Jackson on his appointment last week described City Centre as a "solid business that has much potential".

Mr Jackson, also a director of hotels group De Vere, worked from 1979 to 1991 at Whitbread, where he created and developed the Beefeater steakhouse and TGI Friday brands.

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