Former Tragus Reports Rapid Progress and Expansion to 500 Sites

16th March 2015

Casual Dining Group reports rapid progress in plan to double profits – and eyes expansion to 500 sites: The Casual Dining Group (CDG), formerly the Tragus Group, has revealed rapid progress on its plan to double profits from its current platform of 200 “great leases in great locations”. CDG’s three-year ‘platform for growth’ plan focuses on Bella Italia and Café Rouge after the sale of Strada and a “benign” CVA restructuring that meant debt reduced from £354m to £91m, chief executive Steve Richards told the Propel Multi Club Conference. It plans to double profits and create 3,000 new jobs in a self-funded plan that will involve £140m of capital expenditure to refurbish 160 existing sites and add 70 to grow to 270 sites – and then look at doubling the size of the company to 500 venues. It is also looking at rolling-out its Belgian moules frites brand Belgo, which has been “very successful” over the years. Richards said circa 30 refurbishments have already been completed at Bella Italia so far, six months into its current three-year plan for the business. Between Easter and October, a further 65 sites will be refurbished at an average of £300,000 per site – an investment of £19,500,000. The strategy for Bella Italia, which is led by Nick White, involves radical new design, repositioning “brown Bella” into “Bella blue”, moving it out of the crowded Italian and pizza market (“30% of its sales are pizza but it’s not an out-and-out pizza-based business”) and into the family-focused, traditionalists and teenagers-in-groups themed sector, alongside brands such as Frankie & Benny’s. “We want 70 new sites and we have secured 37 so far, primarily in leisure parks, but also concessions and high street locations – and we’re opening six in the next six weeks. Bella was seen as good value-for-money but food and service was seen as only ‘okay’,” said Richards: “We think that it was a great estate but under-invested. It was a really stable business but in desperate need of evolution, especially to get it off the high street. We’ve taken the supply chain out to Italy and up-graded the whole taste experience – and not chased margin. An average waiter was being asked to look after up to ten tables and we’ve cut that down to four or five – a real investment back into the P&L on service.” The brand now has a new leading children’s menu and breakfast menu – and a new coffee, milkshakes, wine and beer offer. Eighteen months into the evolution process at Bella Italia, the brand is in double digit sales and profit growth, said Richards. Bella is the top ‘brand riser’ in the last year on the latest CGA Peach BrandTrack report, up from position 22 to 12 – and the highest riser in the sector in terms of net promoter scores. The company will have 150 Bella Italia’s across the country creating a £200m-turnover business by 2018, but, said Richards, “we think there can be 300 Bella’s and we will take it overseas. There has been a lot of franchising interest.” Meanwhile, Café Rouge’sevolution project, which began six months ago, is more about “recapturing the past to some degree” than “re-positoning”, he said. “That doesn’t sound like a go-forward mission statement but the past for Café Rouge was pretty good. There is still a lot of customer affection for Café Rouge, especially among ladies who lunch but the décor and offer had become tired. It has some fantastic buildings and locations but there hasn’t been much investment over the past 25 years. It’s about taking it back to being hugely popular again with families and singletons. It’s about improving the food choice and the quality – and returning to the hero dishes and the Frenchness of it. We’ve had to replace every single kitchen in the estate and that’s something we’ve been doing in the background. We’ve replaced the cooking platform in every single Café Rouge to enable us to open up the menu. We’ve also changed the supply chain, increasing fresh products by 50% and introduced a new wine list with Bibendum that we think is second-to-none. We’ve also trialed seven “new-look” sites so far. They’re shooting the lights out. They’re not a dial turner in design terms because that’s not what this is about – they’re going back to an authentic French bistro look. We wanted to deliver on the French classics – great ingredients, great classics all the time. We’ve put a lot of work into delivering 15 core dishes fantastically well.” Evolved Cafe Rouge sites have wine displays with overt cellars, fresh bread displays, a patisserie display and comfortable seating, with a stress on creating warmth and snugness. One in Victoria Station now has a rotisserie trial, “which has gone really well”. The brand, led by James Spragg, will see 15 refurbishments starting in May and a further 30 after the summer. “This is probably a year behind Bella in terms of its evolution,” said Richards. There be 100 Cafe Rouges by 2018 – and a franchise has opened in Dubai. The company is also looking at new formats. “We’ve put a new team in place to help us think about how we might use the bistro idea and the Frenchness in different spaces,” said Richards: “We saw it as a very profitable business with a long tail – and food had been dumbed down somewhat but we see great opportunity in this.” Café Rouge is now the second ‘highest riser’ brand on the Peach BrandTrack report, having moved from 30 to position 22. Of Casual Dining Group’s future, Richards said: “We have a vision to get to 500 units. It means Bella can get to 300 sites, international franchising will be important, we’re building a food development centre of excellence to build on our food credentials, bringing food experts into the business to ensure we never let that slip again, we will look at a third brand and acquiring different things.”

To receive emails from us and keep up to date with the latest jobs and industry news, please complete the short form below.  We will never share your email with any third parties.

    (*) required fields

    Privacy Policy

    The Recruitment Room is committed to protecting the privacy of our candidates, clients and users of our website and services. This policy sets out what personal data we collect from you and how we process and protect that data when you use our website or services. We will only use your personal data in accordance with the terms of this statement.

    Any usage below of ‘we’, ‘us’ or ‘our’ is a reference to The Recruitment Room Ltd and The Recruitment Room.

    We may update this policy occasionally. If we make any changes to our privacy policy, we will post the updated policy on our website. We therefore encourage you to visit our website from time to time in order to keep up to date with the terms of the policy and any potential changes. Amendments made to the policy will not jeopardise the protection and privacy of your personal data.

    The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will be applicable law in the UK from the 25th of May 2018. Your new rights in accordance with GDPR are included in this policy but will only apply once the GDPR comes into effect on the 25th of May.

    Personal information we may gather from you

    As a recruitment business we must process personal data (including sensitive personal data) in order to provide recruitment services to our clients and candidates. In doing so, we act as a data controller.

    You may give your personal details to us directly, such as on a CV, an application or registration form, via our website or by corresponding with us by phone, email or otherwise. Personal data that we may collect includes:



    email address

    phone number



    employment history




    Please note however, that this list is not exhaustive.

    Depending on the nature of the role that you have applied for or that we have offered you, we may need to collect personal sensitive data. Under the General Data Protection Regulation this includes information about your health (for example details concerning any sick leave you may have taken during previous roles), information about any disability and details of any offences you may have committed or are alleged to have committed.

    Personal information from other sources

    We may also collect your personal information from another source such as a jobs board, personal recommendations or LinkedIn.

    Do you have to provide us with personal data?

    You may refuse to give us your personal and sensitive personal data. You also have the right to ask us to delete, change or stop processing your data that we already have (see below in what circumstances). If you do not provide us with personal or sensitive personal data however, it may restrict our ability to provide you with the recruitment and other related services that you have requested.

    Purpose of processing and legal basis

    We will collect your personal data (which may include sensitive personal data) and process that data for the following purposes:

    To provide you with work-finding services to facilitate the recruitment process;

    to assess your suitability for a position;

    to tailor resources and services according to your preferences;

    to maintain our business relationship, where you are a candidate, client or a user of our website;

    to perform administration and operational functions.

    The Recruitment Room must have a legal basis for processing your personal data. The legal bases we rely upon to pursue our processing purposes are:

    Our legitimate interests in providing you with our services. Such interests can however, be overridden by your privacy interests; legal obligation in some cases, where it is necessary for us to meet our legal or regulatory responsibilities; your consent to data processing for the activities not covered by our legitimate interests, which we will obtain from you from time to time.

    An example of a situation where we would rely on consent is when we ask for permission to introduce you to a client; contractual obligations to which you are subject. This includes situations where we are negotiating or have entered into a placement agreement with you or any other contract to provide services to you.

    Legitimate interest

    Where The Recruitment Room has relied on a legitimate interest to process your personal data our legitimate interests is as follows:

    To offer you the tailored and efficient recruitment service you expect of us.

    As a recruitment business, we introduce candidates to clients for permanent and temporary employment as well as offering clients’ vacancies to candidates. In order to do so, the exchange of personal data of our clients and candidates is essential to our operation. In order to support our candidates’ ambitions and to assist our clients with their resourcing needs, we also require to keep a database of client and candidate personal data. Furthermore, to maintain, expand and develop our business we need to record the data of prospective candidates and client data.

    We want to offer you a tailored service that is customised based on the information that you provide us with. We also want to offer an efficient service, which means that we need to use your data for payroll and other administrative activities.

    Third Parties

    As a recruitment business we may disclose your information to third parties where appropriate. The Recruitment Room may share your information with the following third parties:

    Our clients, in other words, prospective employers.

    Payment intermediaries such as an umbrella company.

    Pre-employment screening companies.

    Government and law enforcement authorities.

    Outsourced IT and document storage providers, for example servers and cloud-based data storage services.

    Third party service providers, such as lawyers, accountants and technical support.

    Any third party that we may share your data with must ensure the security of that data. Third parties are also obliged to only use your information for the purposes we have outlined. We will not pass on sensitive data to third parties without your consent, unless we are legally required to do so.

    Overseas Transfers

    The Recruitment Room may transfer only the information you provide to us to countries outside the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) for the purposes of providing you with work-finding services. We will take steps to ensure adequate protections are in place to ensure the security of your information. The EEA comprises the EU member states plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

    How long we store your information

    The Recruitment Room will retain your personal data only for as long as is necessary. Different laws require us to keep different data for different periods of time.

    The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003, require us to keep work-seeker records for at least one year from (a) the date of their creation or (b) after the date on which we last provide you with work-finding services.

    We must also keep your payroll records, holiday pay, sick pay and pensions auto-enrolment records for as long as is legally required by HMRC and associated national minimum wage, social security and tax legislation.

    Where we have obtained your consent to process your personal and sensitive personal data, we will keep your data for 2 years after the last meaningful contact with you. Upon expiry of that period we will seek further consent from you. If consent is not granted, we will delete the personal data that we hold on you.

    Your rights

    Please be aware that you have the following data protection rights:

    The right to be informed about the personal data we process on you;

    The right of access to the personal data we process on you;

    The right to rectification of your personal data;

    The right to erasure of your personal data in certain circumstances;

    The right to restrict processing of your personal data;

    The right to data portability in certain circumstances;

    The right to object to the processing of your personal data that was based on a public or legitimate interest;

    The right not to be subjected to automated decision making and profiling; and

    The right to withdraw consent at any time.

    Where you have consented to us processing your personal and sensitive data you have the right to withdraw that consent at any time by contacting our data protection officer (see below).

    Complaints or queries

    If you wish to complain about this privacy policy or any of the procedures set out in it, please contact our data protection officer Carole Williams at

    You also have the right to raise concerns with Information Commissioner’s Office on 0303 123 1113 or at, or any other relevant supervisory authority should your personal data be processed outside of the UK, if you believe that your data protection rights have not been adhered to.

    The Recruitment Room

    Tel: 0113 322 0660