The hospitality industry is being hit as hard as any by the credit crunch. Pints down the pub are being replaced by cans on the couch and meals out shunned in favour of home cooking.

Yet one Chorley-based company is reaping the rewards of providing the best of both worlds. The Grocery Company specialises in bringing well-known restaurant-chain brands such as Nando’s, Cranks, Wagamama and Pizza Express to living rooms across the UK. In the present climate business is booming. Turnover at this April’s year-end was £6.7m, up 44% on last year. This year’s forecast looks equally rosy, with sales expected to top £9m. Yet MD Phil Lynas is determined the company’s culture will not be affected by its rapid growth.

“We have a relaxed and flexible office environment and are not a great believer in strict office hours or office dress,” he says. “We talk as much as we can and keep emails to a minimum. I think it works well.”

The company may be laid back, but its growth has been far from leisurely. In 1999 Lynas was approached by Nando’s owner Capricorn Ventures International to set up a grocery division of the restaurant chain. Nando’s Grocery, as it was then called, put its marinades, sauces, condiments and dips on Tesco’s shelves in 1999. Although the company now has listings with all the leading supermarkets, Tesco remains its largest retail customer.

In 2002, it stepped activity up a gear when it acquired the collapsed vegetarian food company Cranks, turning the business around and quadrupling turnover of its sandwiches, salads, breads, ready meals and pasta sauces. The move also prompted a name change – Nando’s Grocery became The Grocery Company to reflect the company’s broader remit.

Lynas and his team soon recognised that demand from consumers who wanted to eat their favourite restaurant food at home was only set to grow. So, as part of its ‘restaurant to retail’ strategy, the company took on two more restaurant brands – Wagamama’s stir-fry sauces and marinades range in 2006 and Pizza Express’s dressings business last year. Nando’s and Pizza Express remain the most lucrative licences, as they are the most established restaurant brands, says Lynas.

“We have grown market share in these brands significantly,” he adds. “In marinades, Nando’s is the UK market leader with a 31.7 % share.”

The Grocery Company’s marinades, sauces, sandwiches and dressings face fierce competition from celebrity chef brands, he admits, but he believes he has one major advantage: “Fame is temporary, whereas restaurants are permanent and grounded. We are about longevity.”

There are a number of plans in the pipeline, with 12 new products and another major restaurant brand name poised to join the line-up, he reveals. Lynas expects turnover to hit £25m by 2012. If staying in really is the new going out, there’s every chance he will hit his target.