Published: 10:46, 04 September 2019
| Updated: 17:17, 04 September 2019
Jobs could be at risk in the county after a major restaurant operator announced it will close many of its venues.
Branches of Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito restaurants could close in Kent after The Restaurant Group revealed an £88 million first-half year loss, falling from a £12.2m profit in the previous year.
The business is set to close many Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito branches over the next six years, and nearly 100 more in the longer term.
It is understood42 Chiquito and Frankie & Benny's sites will close, on top of 72 Frankie & Benny's closures that had been previously announced.
In January last year, the chain pulled out of the St James’ development in Dover just weeks before the opening.
Bosses say sales at the restaurants continued to fall because of a weak trading period during last year's extreme weather and the World Cup, despite improvements to the menu.
About half of the group’s 352 dining sites, mainly Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito as well as Garfunkel’s and Coast to Coast, are expected to be closed as their leases expire and some could shut even earlier.
Bosses say about 15 will be converted to the Wagamama brand, which the group purchased last year in a £559m deal.
Eight branches have already been converted this year and eight others were closed down.
Debbie Hewitt, the chairman of the group said: "We are mindful of the headwinds in the casual dining sector and the meaningful uncertainties created by the potential of a no‐deal Brexit and are planning with this in mind.
"However, our business is now better diversified and purposefully positioned to benefit from multiple opportunities for growth."
It is not clear what branches will be closed in Kent and the company said there would be no immediate threat to jobs as underperforming sites would go as leases expired.
More by this authorLynn Cox