22 | Hospitality Today | Aug/Sept 2016 The lively and fun brand is unique and can go anywhere, successfully taking a massive amount of share wherever it opens and rating an impressive four out of five on Trip Advisor. Richards confirmed that next week, Las Iguanas will enter the leisure park market, in Braintree, Essex, with great expectations. During the question and answer session, Steve Richards revealed that what Tim Martin has done with Wetherspoon is something to be admired; if a brand is going to have more than 100 stores it has to pass the ‘Wigan test’; Casual Dining Group is keen to stay in the tapas space, but La Tasca will not be called La Tasca going forward; and home delivery is in the early stages with the signs good so far, however, quality of food is paramount and if it will be pulled if he suspects it is damaging a brand. Ambitions Casual Dining Group is the fourth largest restaurant business in the UK and there is a clear desire to grow. The vision is to double profit and reach 650 stores in the UK, and Steve believes this is achievable. It has great growth prospects across the globe and operating abroad is a very serious ambition, with Bella Italia already open in Deli and Saudi, and a Café Rouge and an office (be it only four desks at present) open in Dubai. Looking forward, it’s all about supporting the growth plan of investing in people, brands, guests and property. Casual Dining Group is looking for new brands to acquire and develop alongside continued organic growth. Richards conceded that Brexit has forced the foot to be put on the door for a short time while the dust settles. The property markets are uncertain so it’s all about seeing what happens in six months and taking the opportunities. The trackers have shown a decline in restaurant visitors over the last eight weeks, but no one can be sure why. Steve put to the audience the possibilities of the weather, England’s disastrous performance in the Euros and the fear factor brought on by Brexit. Richards also believes that the impact of the predicted recession will depend on when it happens, how deep it is, and the recovery style. He ended by reminding the audience that the casual dining sector proved itself very resilient in the last recession as people didn’t stop going out to eat, choosing instead to cut back on big ticket expenses.