The Glasgow-based owner of the Di Maggio’s, Café Andaluz and Amarone chains has revealed plans for more restaurant openings, and is targeting its first-ever move into London.

Mario Gizzi, co-founder of DRG, revealed yesterday that the group is exploring locations in the UK capital.

He flagged the possibility of acquiring an existing restaurant business as part of the expansion plans for DRG, which employs nearly 1,000 people.

Mr Gizzi declared DRG is “actively looking” at potential sites for a second Café Andaluz in Newcastle, after opening a venue in the city’s Grey Street in 2021.

DRG also revealed it had last month enjoyed its busiest December since 2019.

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And it declared: “The business has recovered strongly from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic - during which it did not make a single member of staff redundant - and is now performing well above pre-pandemic levels of trade.”

DRG opened a third Café Andaluz in Edinburgh in November, with this new venue in Stockbridge said by the group to be “proving a big hit in the neighbourhood”.

The group said: “Almost 20,000 people have already visited the restaurant since it opened, making it one of the brand’s most successful new openings to date.”

DRG revealed combined sales across its 17 venues in December was up 10% on the same month of 2022.

Mr Gizzi, who founded DRG in Glasgow with uncle Joe Conetta in 1985, said: “The reception to the Stockbridge Café Andaluz has been exceptional and is exactly why we chose that location. It’s another pillar in the progression of the business, and we have plans to grow the brand further.”

He declared that DRG, which also owns The Anchor Line, Barolo, and The Citizen in Glasgow and Cadiz in Edinburgh, had “a strong portfolio of brands across a broad range of sectors and food types”.

DRG has two restaurants in Aberdeen.

Mr Gizzi said: “Our plans are about growing what we have. We are actively looking at a site for a second Café Andaluz in Newcastle, and beyond that we intend to take the brand and potentially other restaurants into London as well.

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“We are researching suitable locations, and that includes the potential acquisition of other restaurant businesses with a view to converting sites into one of our existing brands if the opportunity is right. We’ve been in business for 40 years because we take a responsible and measured approach to growth, only moving when the opportunity is right for the business, and that will continue to be fundamental to our approach.”

Mr Gizzi, who trained as a chartered accountant in the 1980s, owns and runs DRG with cousin Tony Conetta, who stepped into his father’s role following Joe Conetta’s retirement in 2000.

While Mr Gizzi highlighted his group’s bounce back from the impact of the pandemic, he declared that others had not been so lucky.

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He called on the UK and Scottish governments to do more to support the industry.

Mr Gizzi argued for a lower rate of value-added tax for the hospitality sector.

The ruling Conservatives hiked VAT after coming to power in 2010, with the rate rising to 20% in January 2011.

Mr Gizzi said: “At a UK level, [a] discounted VAT rate for hospitality would help. We’re a very labour-oriented business, and cost factors in the business are going up all the time through wage inflation and utilities costs. The industry has been battered. Hospitality businesses on the continent pay far less VAT, and we’d like to see a rate of around 8%. That would make a difference.”

He also called on the Scottish Government to provide relief on business rates for hospitality firms in line with that south of the Border, where this sector, retail and leisure are being provided with relief of up to 75%.

DRG’s turnover jumped to £44.38 million in the year to May 1, 2022, from £11.48m in the prior 12 months, as it bounced back from the depths of the pandemic, with the group achieving a rise in pre-tax operating profits before exceptional items from £685,000 to about £8.75m.