Frankie & Benny’s owner to shut up to 90 restaurants

By Henry Saker-Clark, PA City Reporter

Frankie & Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group (TRG) has said it plans to close up to 90 restaurant sites by the end of next year.

The dining firm said the closures will impact sites across its leisure portfolio, which includes the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands, and comes after it exited 18 sites in 2019.

The closure plan comes amid a tough period for casual dining chains, with rivals such as Jamie’s Italian collapsing over the past year.

TRG said at least 31 of its leisure sites will not see their contract renewed, with the number potentially rising depending on discussions with landlords.

It added that it also expects to dispose of up to 35 further sites, sell another 12 freehold sites, and plans to convert up to 12 current leisure restaurants into its more profitable Wagamama brand.

Wagamama reported an 8.5% increase in like-for-like sales (Wagamama/PA)

The move will take its leisure portfolio down to 260-275 sites by the end of 2021, from 350.

Andy Hornby, chief executive of the group, told the PA news agency he believes there will “not be significant job losses” as a result of the closures.

He did not confirm the number of redundancies but said it would keep losses to a minimum by attempting to secure impacted staff with jobs in growing areas of the company, such as Wagamama and its pubs business.

The chief, who took the helm of the firm in July, told PA: “We’ve been clear to the market today about the changes that need to be made to the leisure business, so there will be closures of Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito sites.

“We expect the closures will be in roughly same proportions for both Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito.

“The growing parts of our business, Wagamama, our airport concessions and our pubs business will not be impacted.”

He added that the company expects to make roughly half of the restaurant closures in 2020 and half in 2021.

At the end of 2019, the company had 236 Frankie & Benny’s restaurant, 79 Chiquito sites and 35 other sites within its leisure business.

TRG confirmed the closure plans as it reported like-for-like sales growth of 2.7% for the year to December.

The group saw total sales soar 56.4% to £1.07 billion as it was buoyed by its £559 million acquisition of Wagamama in October 2018.

It said Wagamama continues to drive growth in the business, with the pan-Asian chain reporting an 8.5% increase in like-for-like sales over the period.

The group, which has 650 sites in total, slipped to a pre-tax loss of £37.3 million for the year, from a £13.9 million profit in 2018, as it was weighed down by its unprofitable leisure restaurants.

Mr Hornby said: “I am also acutely aware of the challenges facing our leisure business and the wider casual dining sector.

“Following an extensive review we have defined three clear strategic priorities for the next two years: Grow our Wagamama, concessions and pubs businesses; rationalise our leisure business; and accelerate our deleveraging profile.”

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