Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito's to shut due to 'under-performing'
FOUR of Northern Ireland's most popular food spots are set to close this year after UK restaurant owners The Restaurant Group accumulated £22.5 million in losses for the first half of the year.
The closures are part of a wider overhaul by the company which will see a total of 33 of its Frankie and Benny's and Chiquito locations across the UK shut their doors, putting up to 1,000 jobs at risk.
The Italian-American themed Frankie and Benny's will close its Coleraine, Ballymena and Derry locations, and the Victoria Square's Tex-Mex diner Chiquito will also be axed this year.
The Restaurant Group has assured around 100 affected staff, however, that it will attempt to relocate those whose jobs have been lost to other branches.
The move comes after chief executive Danny Breithaubt was replaced earlier this month by former Paddy Power boss Andy McCue and a 3.9 per cent decrease in like-for-like sales for the six months to July 3.
The firm has also said it will take a £59.1m charge linked to the closures.
The group admitted they had lost customers due to “significant price increases” at their Frankie and Benny's branches.
Restaurant Group chairwoman Debbie Hewitt said the company was working to rectify the problem.
"The board has moved quickly to undertake a review of the operating strategy and we now have clarity on the issues facing our leisure brands, particularly Frankie & Benny's,” she said.
"The brand remains relevant and popular and we are confident that improved performance will be achieved by being more customer-focused and data-driven, and through better operational execution."
The company cited the Frankie and Benny's chain in particular suffering due to “insufficient focus on value, unsuccessful menu development and poor operational execution” as the root of the downturn.
"A new executive team is in place to lead the implementation of this first phase of the review and to apply the learnings to our other brands,” Ms Hewitt said.
Sinn Féin MLA for Coleraine Caoimhe Archibald said that the news closure of the Frankie and Benny's establishment would be a serious concern for its employees.
"News that Frankie & Benny's is to close its outlet in Coleraine is a blow the the town," she said.
"Those employed by the restaurants in Coleraine and elsewhere will rightly be concerned about the closure. The loss of these jobs would be a significant blow to the Coleraine area and the local economy.
"Management should ensure that staff are kept informed of developments and opportunities for relocation or redeployment should be offered if possible."
The Restaurant Group counts Frankie and Benny's, Chiquito, Joe's Kitchen and Coast to Coast among its brands and launched a review of its business earlier this year after continual results showing poor performance in the sector.
It said the next phase of its review will encompass the analysis of the performance of its other chains.
Frankie and Benny's operate out of seven locations in the north, while Chiquito's in Victoria Square is their sole establishment in Northern Ireland.