NANDO'S enjoyed a leap in profits last year as the peri-peri chicken restaurant avoided the impact of the economic downturn.

The chain, which counts David Beckham, and Ricky Gervais among its celebrity fans, saw profits jump £31.5 million to £52.9m on turnover of £374m in the year to February, according to a report.

The number of stores increased from 241 to 260 as its directors put the strong financial performance down to better efficiencies and lower interest rates.

Owner Capricorn Ventures, which also owns the Gourmet Burger Kitchen and the Real Greek restaurant chains, took a £27.8m dividend.

Nando's was founded in 1987 by Robert Brozin and Fernando Duarte in Johannesburg. The first British restaurant opened in 1992.