Restaurant chain Nando's has swung back into profit after seeing a surge in customers in 2011.
The UK arm of the chain, known for its flame-grilled peri-peri chicken, posted pre-tax profits of £14.7 million over the year to February 26th 2012, following a loss of £7.1 million during the previous 12 months, reports the Independent.
Nando's strong performance came on the back of an improvement in gross margins, with the UK operation growing turnover 26 per cent to £419.6 million.
The company said that it had benefitted from "sales growth, lower cost inflation, better efficiencies and interest rates" last year.
Nando's success could also see it expand its hospitality recruitment programme as it grows to an ever greater number of sites across the UK.
As of the end of February 2012, the number of restaurants operated by the group stood at 313, up from 295 the year before, with plans to grow this number further.
In 2010, Nando's acquired 53 restaurants when it took over Clapham House, the owner of the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Real Greek restaurants, for £30.4 million.
This enabled the enlarged group to reduce its net debt by £15 million to £378.6 million, says the Independent.
It is thought that Nando's and similar restaurants have benefitted from a boom in casual dining among British consumers, as they look to continue to eat out while at the same time cutting costs in a difficult economy.
According to Allegra's latest Eating Out in the UK report, released in September, the informal eating out market is currently worth £52 billion, but this is expected to grow at a rate 4.9 per cent over the next five years, meaning the sector will be worth a total of £65 billion by 2017.
The report revealed that people are eating at restaurants more frequently than they have in the past, but that 62 per cent look to spend cautiously when eating out, helping to boost the popularity of casual, low-cost chains such as Nando's.
Berkeley Scott is a specialist recruitment agency to help source hospitality recruitment jobs