Lomito'n, one of Chile's major restaurant and fast food chains, recorded a 4-5% drop in sales in 2000 compared to the previous year, despite implementing a competitive expansion plan during this period. According to Managing Director Juan Ramon Samaniego, the low annual sales figure was due to a fall in consumption between March and October 2000 caused by last year's recession.

The company is nevertheless confident in sales predictions for 2001. Sales improved slightly during November and December of last year, reflecting new consumer confidence and optimism about the national economy.

Lomito'n plans to continue the competitive expansion strategy begun in 1999 by opening 22 new establishments this year, both in Chile and abroad. Furthermore, the company's strategic partnership with Esso is expected to generate more expansion opportunities.

While Lomito'n has branches in Argentina and Paraguay, the company aims to penetrate markets in Peru, Uruguay, the US, Mexico and Brazil. Although the company will not cease to evaluate additional markets in Latin America, Uruguay and Argentina will most likely be the focus of operations for 2001, Samaniego stated.

To date, Lomito'n has 84 sites, 70 of which are fast food outfits and 14 are restaurants.

By Steve Anderson, just-food.com correspondent