by business editor Trevor Sturgess
Kent jobs could be at risk after Little Chef announced the closure of 67 restaurants across the UK.
The roadside restaurant chain owned by the RCapital private investment group operates 161 sites but says those earmarked for closure have traded unprofitably for years. It blamed economic and locational factors for the closures.
Little Chef has four restaurants in Kent - at Brenzett, Romney Marsh (A259), Gate, Dunkirk, near Canterbury (A2), Whitstable East (A299 Thanet Way) and Lamberhurst (A21 Hastings).
A spokeswoman said that staff who were affected by the decision were being told but the fate of each local restaurant would not be disclosed publicly until this process was completed. Some are to shut immediately.
The closures are expected to result in the loss of between 500 and 600 full and part-time jobs at sites across the country. Little Chef expects 1,500 jobs to remain.
Many restaurants have been given a facelift and more will be converted to the New Concept format. Little Chef, which says it is trading strongly, is also targeting new sites.
Graham Sims, chairman of Little Chef, said: "When we acquired Little Chef four years ago we inherited a number of sites with leases that were uncompetitive. Despite very hard work from some very committed colleagues we have been unable to lift the performances of these sites to a level where they are viable."
Some employees will be offered alternative jobs.