The companies that incorporate Rick Stein's seafood restaurant and accommodation empire saw profits dip in 2018, but have experienced a stronger start to 2019.
Turnover at the company, whose other activities include retail outlets, a cookery school and an internal production unit, was up 0.8% to £29.2m in 2018, compared to £29m in 2017.
But the group saw its pre-tax profit fall to £111,000 for the year, from £960,000 the year before. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) fell from £2.6m to £1.7m.
In a strategic report preceding the accounts, finance director Neil McLeod said the restaurant trade in the UK had suffered a "turbulent time" over the past two years. He blamed the fall in turnover and profitability on rising regulatory costs – particularly the National Living Wage, business rates, the apprenticeship levy, and pension auto-enrolment.
Rick Stein's restaurants saw their total wage bill rise 5% in 2018 to a total of £7.6m, with a wages to sales ratio of 45%. The business is one of Cornwall's largest private-sector employers, employing around 300 people.
Sales performance increased in the first half of 2019, up 3.8% to date; with group EBITDA expected to be over £2m for the year, an increase of more than 17% on 2018.
Rick Stein's 14 restaurants and bars include the Seafood Restaurant in Padstow, which he and Jill Stein opened in 1975, as well as venues in Sandbanks in Dorset, Winchester in Hampshire, Barnes in London and Falmouth in Cornwall.