THE owners of Frankie and Benny's, who have an outlet in Dunfermline, have announced 35 of their restaurants across the UK are to close.

The Restaurant Group plans to axe loss-making locations and shed jobs in an effort to boost earnings.

Frankie and Benny's branch at Fife Leisure Park previously escaped a cull in July 2020 when the group said 120 sites were to go as part of restructuring plans.

The Kirkcaldy branch shut at that time.

The group also owns Chiquito – their restaurant at Fife Leisure Park was closed in 2020 – and pan-Asian chain Wagamama.

Andy Hornby, TRG’s chief executive, said the move forms part of a “robust plan” to improve the group’s margins over the next three years.

“Every year a number of leases come up for potential renewal, so the vast majority is where we are going to selectively – and we haven’t fully decided yet, we are going to constantly review the way the sites are trading – exit a number of those, rather than renew the lease for another five or 10 years,” he said.

“We will manage that on a localised basis, and the teams will be the first people to know.

"But we are not closing any sites that we think have got long-term profitable futures.”

Up to three of the sites will be converted to Wagamama over the next two years, and the rest will be sold or the leases will be exited or left to expire.

Mr Hornby said the business would try to offer deployments to staff across the affected sites wherever possible, although did not specify how many jobs would be impacted.

He added: “A significant number of these potential sites are in areas where we have other brands, so the job impact should be significantly less than you might think from the number of sites that we will not be renewing.”

The plans come after TRG has faced pressure from activist shareholders to improve shareholder returns, with shares in the business shrinking to less than a third of pre-pandemic levels.

The company, which has about 18,000 staff, has already cut a raft of loss-making restaurants over the period, including closing the majority of its Chiquito restaurants at the start of the pandemic to bolster its finances.

TRG revealed its pre-tax losses widened last year from £35.2 million in 2021 to £86.8m in 2022, as it faced a knock-back from cost inflation across food and drink, energy and wages.

Sales from people dining in at Wagamama increased by nearly a tenth last year, offsetting a 17 per cent decline in takeaway sales as people returned to the high streets.

TRG said it wants to open five to six new Wagamama restaurants a year for the next three years, and increase the number of restaurants from 156 to around 200 in the long term.

Mr Hornby said that, while the rise in sales was partly driven by higher prices, the chain has also seen an increase in customers.

Lara Martinez, analyst at Third Bridge, said: “Amongst the casual dining sector, The Restaurant Group is more recession-proof than most, thanks to their recipe for consumer-centric brands, a young customer demographic, and higher-margin dark kitchens.”

Russ Mould, an investment director AJ Bell, said that the “question may well be asked, why not spin off, sell off or in some way get rid of this part of the business entirely, along with the other bits, to focus on Wagamama which is clearly a restaurant brand with genuine appeal”.

“Rename the business as Wagamama, clear out the rest, and you would have a streamlined and focused operation which might have more appeal to investors.”

Shares in TRG closed down 15.36%, or 6.96p, at 38.36p.