Hospitality Today Aug-Sep 2016 - Page 20

20 | Hospitality Today | Aug/Sept 2016 The Arena Summer Event 2016 Steve Richards, CEO of Casual Dining Group Steve Richards, the CEO of Casual Dining Group, took to the stage at the Mandarin oriental Hyde Park to address hospitality and foodservice professionals for Arena’s Summer Event. Over the course of approximately 20 minutes, Roberts took the audience on the journey that transformed the Tragus of 2014 into the successful Casual Dining Group business of today – one of the fastest growing restaurant businesses in the UK, that has more than doubled its profit in two years and created over 5,000 new jobs. It is the fourth largest restaurant business in the UK, with 301 sites, and Richards stated he thought there was room for 650. They serve 11,000 Carbonaras, and 8,000 Lasagnes, every week. In 2014, the decision to take control of Tragus was made. Described as ‘a business well known for going backward’, Richards saw a good business with a poor profit sheet that had real potential. It possessed well-known, good (albeit tired) brands such as Bella Italia and Café Rouge, and 192 cracking sites, and this was to be the basis of Casual Dining Group. The first year of acquisition was all about creating the Casual Dining Group business. In a nutshell, the business was ‘shrank down, re-focused and re-invested’. This involved selling off the Strada chain, as Richards didn’t want a “sub-scale pizza brand that only seemed to work in London” in the portfolio; putting in place strong teams to embark upon a rejuvenation programme for the tired brands, and devolving the brand ›\]H]]ۛ[\K