Italian casual dining chain Tony Macaroni to open first Belfast unit
A Scottish-based Italian restaurant chain is set to open a new unit in Belfast's Victoria Square.
Tony Macaroni is due to open on September 2 in the unit formerly occupied by Chiquito, according to staff at the shopping facility.
It intends to apply for an alcohol license at the premises, with late night hours also requested, according to a legal notice.
Signage for the restaurant has already been put up in Victoria Square while a board advertising some of their menus was left outside the unit.
The Italian casual dining eatery has 15 restaurants across Scotland and one at Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor.
It announced the planned opening of the Victoria Square restaurant online, adding that it was "thrilled".
The announcement also said: "We are dedicated to bringing an authentic Italian dining experience, and we are sure that you will love our traditional take on Italian cuisine.
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"Our chefs cook everything to order and use only the freshest ingredients - both local and Italian - in every dish that's brought to your table."
The owner of the company behind the Tony Macaroni casual dining brand had unveiled plans last September to invest £5m in expanding the group.
Sep Marini told the Herald in Scotland that the outlet in Belfast will be used as the "showroom" for rolling out a Tony Macaroni franchise, allowing individual operators to open their own restaurants under the brand around the UK.
He also mentioned that the Belfast restaurant will be directly managed, while the Bangor outlet was the first franchise to open.
Mr Marini added: "It is a good way to have rapid expansion, with not a lot of cost to the company, and obviously strengthen the group.
"We want to be in all the main towns. The casual dining market has got quite a bad name at the moment, but I think the restaurants closing quite a bit at the moment is only helping us."
Since that interview the casual dining market has continued on a downward trend, with all but three of Jamie Oliver's 25 UK restaurants closing in May.
That saw the loss of 1,000 jobs after the administrators were called in.
The Restaurant Group also announced in March that it plans to close a third of its 248 Frankie & Benny's restaurants.
The company, which also owns brands such as Wagamama and Chiquito, also said that its casual dining chains accounted for less than a third of its profits.
VSQ and Lambert Smith Hampton both declined to comment.