Ed's Easy Diner Belfast branch will close days after Christmas
About a dozen staff at Belfast's only branch of restaurant chain Ed's Easy Diner have been told it will shut its doors for good in less than a week, this newspaper can reveal.
Employees were given the news this week, just days before Christmas, and told the Boucher Square store would close next Wednesday.
It is understood some received the news by text message.
The American-style diner chain was once hailed as one of the fastest-growing restaurant businesses in the UK, but it has suffered a turbulent year.
It went into administration earlier this year and was bought over by Giraffe Concepts Limited, part of Boparan Restaurant Holdings, in October.
Despite plans to close the city store, brand director Sam Wignell told the Belfast Telegraph he believed the business had a "great future".
He said: "Following our acquisition of Ed's Easy Diners we moved quickly to improve the quality of our food and service across the brand.
"We also looked closely at the performance of each site and realised that, unfortunately, Belfast is not a viable business and will therefore be closing.
"We would like to emphasise that we see a great future with the Ed's Easy Diner brand and we will be investing significantly into the business over the coming months and years."
Boparan also runs restaurant chain Harry Ramsden's and is a holding company for the 2 Sisters Food Group.
As part of the deal to buy Ed's Easy Diner, it was announced 26 branches would close with the loss of almost 400 jobs across the UK.
At the time, the Belfast branch was named among the 33 restaurants spared closure.
In the latest cuts, other branches in England are also set to shut down, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal. It is understood the Gloucester and Canterbury branches are to close.
The Boucher Road branch was the chain's first outlet in Northern Ireland and created 25 jobs when it opened just a year-and-a-half ago.
It was previously reported that the failing restaurant let half of its employees go just weeks after opening.
In July last year the firm announced it would open a second outlet in the city centre on Castle Lane, but bosses performed a U-turn and the store did not open despite work being already under way to fit out the restaurant. Also in the Boucher Road retail park are Costa Coffee, Frankie and Benny's and Nando's - which opened its fourth Belfast restaurant last month.
Rob Croxen and Blair Nimmo from KPMG had been appointed joint administrators to Ed's Easy Diner.
The administrators completed a pre-packaged sale of the business to Giraffe Concepts Ltd.
It is believed the owners had been looking for around £100m for the chain.
At the time, the deal was said to have saved around 700 jobs across the restaurant chain.
The casual eatery is known for its menu of burgers, chilli, hot dogs, milkshakes and fries in 1950s American diner-style surroundings, complete with jukeboxes.
The company's first restaurant opened in Soho in central London in 1987.
By June 2015, a rapid expansion saw the chain open 41 branches across the UK.
Meanwhile, Irish-owned American-style diner Eddie Rocket's opened its first Northern Ireland restaurant in Newry last year.
The firm has since opened a second store on the Lisburn Road in Belfast.