Uncertain times for Frankie & Benny's outlets in Wisbech and Ely as parent company prepares for closure programme across the UK

PUBLISHED: 12:22 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:22 05 September 2019

Of three restaurant units in Wisbech owned by Cambs County Council, one is empty, Prezzo is trading as normal but the third, Frankie & Benny's, could be among those earmarked for closure by its parent company. Picture; AGENTS

Of three restaurant units in Wisbech owned by Cambs County Council, one is empty, Prezzo is trading as normal but the third, Frankie & Benny's, could be among those earmarked for closure by its parent company. Picture; AGENTS

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The future of Frankie & Benny's in Wisbech and Ely remain uncertain after the parent company says it's ready for a major closure programme.

Of three restaurant units in Wisbech owned by Cambs County Council, one is empty, Prezzo is trading as normal but the third, Frankie & Benny's, could be among those earmarked for closure by its parent company. Picture; AGENTSOf three restaurant units in Wisbech owned by Cambs County Council, one is empty, Prezzo is trading as normal but the third, Frankie & Benny's, could be among those earmarked for closure by its parent company. Picture; AGENTS

The Restaurant Group - who owns Frankie & Benny's and Chiquito - announced it is looking to shut half of its sites.

The group, which also owns Wagamama and Coast to Coast, said it had more than 100 sites earmarked for closure already.

This includes 76 Frankie & Benny's sites which were identified earlier this year and a further 42 sites.

These will not be immediate closures but will largely involve allowing leases to run out at "unattractive" current locations, the group said.

The threat to Frankie & Benny's in Wisbech will be a blow to nightlife if it goes ahead following the closure of its neighbouring restaurant, Giraffe. Prezzo is also in the same block next to the Light Cinema.

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The units - and the cinema site - were acquired earlier this year by Cambridgeshire County Council who shelled out six and a half million pounds to become the new landlord.

The council says that on May 24 it "acquired Cromwell Leisure Park in Wisbech for £6.58m as its second commercial investment property."

The former Giraffe restaurant, with nearly 3,000 square feet of seating space, was once part of Tesco.

Agents trying to sell the lease have not revealed the rent for the empty unit but say it has a rateable value of £68,000 - the figure used to calculate the actual rates payable.

What will determine if or when The Restaurant group pulls out of Wisbech and/or Ely will be in part determined by the type of lease they have for each site. The company has indicated no time scale for closures but says it is likely to be when leases expire or when they reach a break clause in the contracts.

Debbie Hewitt, who chairs the group, said casual dining chains have faced pressures in recent times. she summed it up as a "consumer environment that is tough with all sorts of uncertainty".

Cllr Josh Schumann, chair of Cambridgeshire County Council's commercial and investment committee said: "The purchase of the leisure park in Wisbech is part of our strategy to build a portfolio of investments that support the council's objectives - to raise an excellent return for taxpayers and help to safeguard the future of essential services for people across the county."

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