Since mid-September, revenues at D&D London have been ahead of pre-Covid levels, however bosses have said this growth is being stifled as staff shortages are forcing venues to cap opening hours and covers.
September as a whole saw overall UK revenues at 96% of pre-pandemic levels and the group said its restaurants were trading "substantially ahead of expectations".
In a trading update, the group said September as a whole saw UK revenues at 96% of pre-pandemic levels. Venues outside of London in Leeds (Crafthouse, Angelica, Issho and East 59th) and Manchester (20 Stories) saw revenues "consistently significantly higher" than pre-Covid, while venues located in residential areas of London such as Bluebird, Le Pont de la Tour, Butler's Wharf Chophouse and Fiume also reported "substantially higher" revenues than pre-Covid levels.
The group said the concentration of its portfolio of restaurants in central London (75% of its revenues) was holding back revenue bounce-back, although this is expected to power revenue growth in the next few months as the central London economy recovers with the return of office workers and eventually business travel and tourism. Corporate and social events bounced back in July, stabilising in August and in September were at around 75% of pre-Covid levels, despite very short-term booking patterns and no clear view yet of what Christmas trading will look like.
The group disclosed further openings were planned in London but 75% of its pipeline was in regional UK cities and overseas, including a rooftop restaurant at 103 Colmore Row in Birmingham, due to open in spring 2022.
Des Gunewardena (pictured), chairman and chief executive of D&D London, said: "There is no hiding from the fact that the profile of D&D's restaurants – mostly in central London and predominantly known for their dining experiences rather than food only – meant that we were hit harder by Covid and not been as fast to bounce-back as restaurants which could tilt their businesses more easily to delivery and/or were based mainly outside London. Despite this our business has recovered strongly particularly in terms of profitability, helped by cost reductions and government reliefs. We are also now seeing the start of a more powerful central London and corporate spend recovery which is boosting revenues.
"However, we are not getting carried away. Covid is not over. And we are having to deal with severe people shortage issues, particularly amongst mid-skilled staff, with inflation rising both for staff and operating costs. So, while the short-term revenue outlook looks pretty positive the industry faces serious short- and medium-term supply side challenges."
D&D London owns and operates more than 40 restaurants in London, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Paris and New York as well as the 80-bedroom South Place hotel in London.