Job fears as Frankie and Benny's plans to axe four restaurants
80 posts could go at Enniskillen firm
Up to 100 jobs are at risk after the firm behind Italian diner-style restaurant Frankie & Benny's announced it is to close four of its Northern Ireland restaurants.
Frankie & Benny's restaurants in Ballymena, Coleraine and Londonderry and the Victoria Square branch of Chiquito's are among those set to close along with 30 other sites across the UK.
The Restaurant Group runs eight stores in Northern Ireland - including two in Belfast, one in Bangor, Lisburn, Coleraine, Ballymena and Londonderry. The move will see half the group's restaurants here close.
However, despite the closures, the firm still plans to go ahead with plans to open up to 28 new stores but would not say if any of those would be in Northern Ireland.
It comes as Italian fast-food restaurant rival Apache Pizza begins to work on the first of 40 restaurants it plans to open across Northern Ireland in a move which will create around 800 jobs. And Pizza Express also makes the final preparations to open two stores next month.
The Restaurant Group - the firm behind Frankie & Benny's - operates 500 restaurants across the UK.
Each restaurant employs between 20 and 25 people in a mixture of full-time and part-time roles. However, the Restaurant Group would not disclose how many casual staff it employed here and said that all staff would be offered work in other locations.
A spokesperson for the company said: "The company expects few, if any redundancies. In total in Northern Ireland 80-100 people will be affected."
A statement described the sites as "under-performing" and said that the closures were part of a "strategic review" into the company.
The news comes as The Restaurant Group booked pre-tax losses of £22.5m for the first half of the year as it took a hit from a £59.1m exceptional charge linked to the store closures and write-downs.
The store closures will affect up to 1,000 jobs, although it is understood that the company will redeploy the vast majority in other outlets. Like-for-like sales fell 3.9% as the group, which has issued a string of profit warnings, flagged a "challenging trading period".
Meanwhile, a further 80 jobs are under threat after Enniskillen food manufacturing firm Adelie Ireland went into liquidation yesterday. The sandwiches and snacks outfit is located on the town's Lackaghboy Road, and supplies food products to convenience stores. The manufacturing and distribution operation formed part of Adelie Foods UK, which operates across the UK. Enniskillen was the firm's only Northern Ireland facility.
It was not clear last night whether the whole Adelie Foods group had gone into liquidation, or only the Northern Ireland operation.
Staff were sent home yesterday after being told the news.