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TGI Fridays to close amid latest raft of restaurant shutdowns in face of virus

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The chain said it will temporarily close its restaurants from 9pm on Friday due to the coronavirus pandemic.

An almost-empty Bull Street in Birmingham

TGI Fridays has become one of the latest in a raft of restaurants to close their doors temporarily in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

A host of other chains including Bill’s and The Ivy Collection joined the latest group of firms to close their restaurants to diners.

TGI Fridays said it will temporarily close its restaurants from 9pm on Friday night in a move to “protect our guests, our teams, our communities and our business”.

In a letter to customers, chief executive officer Robert B Cook said the firm will look to safely distribute stock to local communities and the company’s team.

He said: “We’ve been working hard on some exciting new developments for you, including new food and drinks menus and the return of some classic cocktails.

“Unfortunately, the launch will now have to be delayed, but we can’t wait to invite you to try it when we open our doors again. Myself and the entire team are going to bring Fridays back stronger than ever before.”

It comes after Zizzi, Ask and Prezzo became some of the first restaurant chains to announce temporary closures on Thursday, following Government advice to avoid pubs, restaurants and cinemas.

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Richard Caring-backed restaurant chains Bill’s and The Ivy Collection said they have also decided to shut operations for the time being.

Bill’s said on social media that it will not reopen its 78 restaurants from now on due to the outbreak.

In a statement, it said: “This extraordinary measure has been taken in the interest of both employee and guest safety which are of utmost importance to us.”

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Elsewhere, Lebanese brand Comptoir Libanais has closed its 25 sites with immediate effect until further notice.

It added that it expects the closure to result in a “material reduction” in trading expectations for the current year.

Loungers, which runs independently branded Lounge venues and the Cosy Club chain, said it will temporarily close its sites from 3pm on Friday.

The closure of venues comes after a dive in customer footfall, with the latest Wireless Social footfall tracker revealing a 74% year-on-year decline on Thursday.

It said the tracker, which looks at 800 hospitality venues nationally, also revealed a 50% decline from the previous week.

Meanwhile, Leon said it is turning all its restaurants into mini supermarkets to help customers and suppliers during the outbreak.

Leon’s chief executive John Vincent said: “Right now you have struggling restaurants and their staff ready to provide food to customers on the one hand, and on the other, supermarkets with empty shelves. The balance isn’t right.”

Pub chain Wetherspoons said on Friday that sales have dropped further after Prime Minister Boris Johnson told punters to stay at home but is continuing to keep sites open.

The pub chain said that sales, which had risen by 3.2% in the previous six weeks, started falling by 4.5% in the week ending March 15 as the pandemic scared customers off.

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