A LONG-STANDING restaurant could be axed as part of plans to swap steaks and burgers for duvets and pillows.

Beefeater owner Whitbread, which owns The Albert in Colchester, has confirmed its plans to axe about 1,500 jobs across the UK could impact staff at the restaurant in Cowdray Avenue.

The group, which also owns the adjoining Premier Inn hotel, said the job cuts are still subject to consultation.

It said the move is part of a plan to “optimise” its food and drink offering to add more than 3,500 hotel rooms across its estate and increase “operational efficiencies”.

Gazette: Whitbread also owns the Premier Inn hotel chainWhitbread also owns the Premier Inn hotel chain (Image: PA)

Whitbread said it plans to sell 126 of its less profitable branded restaurants, with 21 sales already having gone through, while also converting 112 restaurants into new hotel rooms.

A spokesman for the group told the Gazette it is “committed to working hard” to enable as many affected colleagues as possible to stay with the company.

Regular diner Terry David says he has eaten at The Albert “at least 200 times” over the last 25 years and that “it has been our family’s favourite restaurant for a long time”.

The 71-year-old said: “I think it’s a shame it could close down but it has a lot of competition with all the extra fast food outlets and restaurants which have opened in Colchester.

“There’s a lot more choice now with areas like the Northern Gateway and Tollgate, and I suppose they wouldn’t be thinking about closing it down if it was profitable.”

Last month, the company announced a pre-tax profit of £452million for the year ending February 29, up 21 per cent on the year before.

But its restaurants and pubs division, which also includes Table Table – the brand behind the Balkerne Gate in Ipswich Road - lagged behind.

The company’s total food and beverage sales were up only 7 per cent year on year, driven mainly by breakfasts in the restaurant chain.

Food and beverage sales were down 2 per cent for the seven weeks to April 18, the most recent period on record.

The restaurant is open as usual while Whitbread bosses decide its fate.