BELOVED restaurant chain Frankie & Benny's has sadly closed its Colchester site.

The eatery, in Tollgate West, Stanway, said its final farewell before closing down last weekend, having been a part of the city for more than 15 years.

The Big Table, which owns Frankie & Benny’s as well as other chains including Bella Italia, Las Iguanas, and Café Rouge, released a statement on the closure.

A spokesman said: “We review every site to ensure we always have the right offer in the right location, and after careful consideration, we took the difficult decision to close our restaurant in Colchester on January 27."

Gazette: Frankie and Benny's shut its Colchester branch permanently on SaturdayFrankie and Benny's shut its Colchester branch permanently on Saturday (Image: Frankie and Benny's)

The company also explained how it has tried to offer roles to staff at other restaurants which are part of its retail group to ensure they are not left without work.

"Wherever possible, our team has been offered roles at other Big Table Group restaurants," a statement said.

“We’d like to thank all our customers and apologise for any inconvenience this will cause.”

Now the restaurant has left the city, the question on everyone's lips is what will replace it.

The neighbouring site, once home to Chiquito, closed and was replaced by a gym.

Could a similar venture replace Frankie & Benny's? Or will it be a new restaurant?

Here is what Gazette readers said they would like to see fill the Italian-American-sized hole now left in Stanway.

Many said they would welcome TGI Friday's to Colchester.

The American restaurant chain has three sites in Essex, Basildon, Braintree and Chelmsford, but not here.

Gazette: TGI Friday's in BasildonTGI Friday's in Basildon (Image: Google)

Other restaurant ideas raised were Bella Italia, which has just one Essex restaurant in Basildon, Wagamama, which already boasts a site in the city centre, Popeye's, a Chinese buffet, and more.

Away from restaurants, readers mentioned a Home Bargains, Zara and Pets at Home and Morrisons, which many residents have wanted to see in Colchester for years.

The future of Frankie & Benny’s restaurants had been called into question as far back as 2019 when The Restaurant Group Ltd – the retailer that then owned the chain – posted losses of £87 million.

It is not clear whether Frankie & Benny’s, which markets itself as “the home of real good comfort food”, was included in The Restaurant Group’s plans to slash its number of restaurants in 2019, but the Colchester branch remained open.

There were further closures in 2020 when The Restaurant Group said numerous restaurants, which had been closed due to Covid restrictions, would remain closed permanently.

It was then reported last year The Restaurant Group had sold Frankie & Benny’s to The Big Table for just £1 so it could cut its losses on the chain.