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Frankie & Benny's pays price for a costlier menu

By Ravender Sembhy

The struggling owner of Frankie & Benny's and Garfunkel's - which closed four of its seven Northern Ireland restaurants last year - has said trading continues to be challenging and a major shake-up of the business will only begin to bear fruit towards the end of the year.

The group once owned seven restaurants in Northern Ireland, but last August announced it would close the Frankie & Benny's in Ballymena, Coleraine and Londonderry, as well as Chiquito based in Belfast's Victoria Square.

The chain is now left with just three restaurants here - Frankie & Benny's branches in Victoria Square, Boucher Road and Lisburn.

It's thought around 100 jobs were lost as a result of the closures.

The restaurant group yesterday said like-for-like sales in the fourth quarter fell 5.9%, and dropped 3.9% over the year.

Total turnover increased by 3.7% in 2016 to £710.7m.

It was part of a UK-wide move to shut 33 under-performing sites as part of a strategic review.

However, the group's post close trading update stated that the group shut a total of 37 restaurants and opened 24.

It admitted it had lost value-conscious customers at Frankie & Benny's after significant price hikes, and the firm pledged to "look at the pricing architecture of the menu" and "reinvigorate the value offer" in a bid to attract more families to its eateries.

Over the last quarter, price and menu trials were introduced across Frankie & Benny's. The report said the findings proved that "substantial" price changes were required.

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