Suffolk jobs at risk as Frankie & Benny’s confirmed to be shutting sites

Frankie & Benny's will make up the majority of the stores that are shutting. Pictured: Frankie & Ben

Frankie & Benny's will make up the majority of the stores that are shutting. Pictured: Frankie & Benny's Ravenswood Picture: LUCY TAYLOR - Credit: Lucy Taylor

Jobs across Suffolk could be at risk as the owner of Frankie and Benny’s announced it was going to close 125 of its sites across the country.

Up to 3,000 jobs are on the line at The Restaurant Group (TRG) which operates restaurant brands including Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s, Chiquito and Coast to Coast.

The chain runs stores in Cardinal Park, Ipswich and on Parkway in Bury St Edmunds.

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Closures had been rumoured for a long time, but the group has now confirmed that they will take place.

The stores that will close are “principally” Frankie & Benny’s restaurants, the group said.

TRG said it was seeking approval from its landlords for a deal that would let it reduce the number of restaurants it runs, and negotiate lower rents for many of those left over.

Bosses said the hospitality industry was facing “well documented” problems, after the coronavirus pandemic forced many in the sector to close their doors.

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If landlords approve the deal, known as a company voluntary arrangement (CVA), it will leave the firm’s leisure arm with about 160 sites.

It will also allow it to exit about 25 restaurants which have already been closed.

“The issues facing our sector are well documented and we have already taken decisive action to improve our liquidity, reduce our cost base and downsize our operations,” said chief executive Andy Hornby.

“The proposed CVA will deliver an appropriately-sized estate for our Leisure business to ensure we are well positioned despite the very challenging market conditions facing the casual dining sector.

“I would like to wholeheartedly thank all of my TRG colleagues for their continued understanding and extraordinary commitment during this unprecedented period.”

The British Property Federation said it had been talking to TRG before it proposed the CVA, but it would be up to individual landlords to decide how to vote on the deal.

The federation’s chief executive Melanie Leech said: “These situations are never easy, particularly now for the retail and hospitality businesses on our high streets at the sharp end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Property owners, however, need to take into consideration the impact on their investors, including the millions of people whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property, as they vote on any CVA proposal.”

TRG told investors last week it was struggling even before the coronavirus hit.

In March, before lockdown, the firm closed 60 of its Chiquito Mexican-style outlets, as well as its chain of pubs Food & Fuel.

After press reports that the group was planning sweeping closures, analysts at Citi said the move would be good for the business.

It would benefit from getting rid of the whole leisure business, they said, which is expected to account for only 20% of its profits this financial year despite encompassing nearly half of its restaurants.

Citi said: “A clean exit would leave the group focused on its growth businesses, which we think have stronger prospects.”

The Restaurant Group said that 210 of its 285 restaurants had been identified as underperforming, on “unfavourable” lease terms, or not expected to generate profit in the future.