Restaurant Group's finance chief exits after just 10 months

A Chiquito restaurant
The owner of Mexican restaurant chain Chiquito has seen its chief financial officer leave after less than a year

The owner of Frankie & Benny’s restaurants has seen its chief financial officer quit the company after less than a year in the role.

Shares in Restaurant Group dropped more than 2pc to 357p on the back of the news that Barry Nightingale had left the company with immediate effect. He had only joined the firm in June last year and his departure comes just seven months after new chief executive Andy McCue joined to spearhead the company’s turnaround.

The business, which also owns Mexican eatery Chiquito, has suffered from declining like-for-like sales in recent years and has issued three profit warnings since November 2015.

Mr McCue, the former boss of bookmaker Paddy Power, recently unveiled a new strategy focusing on price cuts and simpler menu options to lure back customers.

He said there would be 22 meals at Frankie & Benny's priced under £10 compared to five now, helping the brand become "much more competitive" against its rivals. He added that the offering at Mexican eatery Chiquito would be simpler and allow customers to choose how spicy their food is.

The changes, which also include site closures and write-downs on the value of some locations, are set to cost £116m, and pushed the company to a pre-tax loss of £39.5m for the 53 weeks to January 1, compared to an £86.8m profit in the 2015 financial year. Adjusted pre-tax profits dropped 11pc to £77.1m.

In terms of replacing Mr Nightingale, chairman Debbie Hewitt said a search had commenced.

She thanked Mr Nightingale for his “valuable contribution” towards the company’s nascent turnaround plan.

Brokerage Cenkos said there had been “no reason” given for Mr Nightingale’s departure but it noted “his appointment pre-dated that of chief executive Andy McCue who has been building his own top team”.

“Therefore we do not view his departure as concerning but we expect the share price will react adversely given he has only been in post since June 2016 and there has been significant instability at the top of the group since [former chief executive] Andrew Page's departure in August 2014,” it added.

Restaurant Group will provide a trading update on May 26, the date of the company’s annual general meeting.

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