THE owner of Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito has lined up another 42 restaurants for closure – on top of 76 already identified.

The Restaurant Group posted a pre-tax loss of £87.7million for the six months to June 30.

It said strong performances in the growing parts of its business were offset by decline in the leisure arm, which includes the Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito brands.

It said it had earmarked 42 sites – mainly Chiquito restaurants – which it planned to leave when leases ran out or reached a break clause, following its previous announcement of 76 Frankie & Benny closures.

Like-for-like sales for the period rose by four per cent as total sales surged on the back of its £559million acquisition of the Wagamama in October 2018.

The group has Frankie & Benny’s restaurants at BH2 in Bournemouth and Tower Park in Poole. A branch at Castlepoint closed last year.

It has Chiquito restaurants at BH2 and Tower Park, with Wagamama branches at Westover Road in Bournemouth and Brewery Square in Dorchester.

Debbie Hewitt, non-executive chairman of the Restaurant Group, said: “We continue to focus on improving our brand offerings and delivering the best possible experience to our customers whilst optimising our leisure business to enhance the overall group performance.

“Prevailing feeling is that uncertainty is having an impact on consumer sentiment but we believe we have a sufficiently strong set of brands.

“Regarding Brexit, the supply of food and labour are the two issues we want clarity on and are working to ensure we are as prepared as possible.”

The company said there was “over-capacity” in the casual dining market, with branded restaurants up 27 per cent in five years.

Bournemouth-based hospitality consultant Simon Scarborough told the Daily Echo that the big chains had opened too many restaurants. “I think these brands overreach themselves,” he said.

“I think they think it’s better to have more rather than fewer but it just dilutes what they’re doing.”

He said big brands were often wooed by the developers behind new leisure sites. “Because people assume that brands will attract people to them, they tend to get very attractive leases to get them there, but only for a short time,” he added.

He said Frankie & Benny’s in particular had faced increased competition. “There are so many more restaurants doing similar things. Once upon a time you couldn’t get that American diner type food anywhere else,” he said.