Exeter restaurants sit derelict next to major road

Empty Frankie and Benny's in Exeter
-Credit: (Image: DevonLive)

An Exeter retail park is still feeling the effects of the closure of two major restaurants. Despite repeated attempts to replace them with other food outlets, nothing has materialised.

In 2020, Mexican-themed restaurant Chiquito closed the doors of its branch at Alphington Park on Alphington Road. The chain's parent company at the time The Restaurant Group said at the time that it was closing 125 restaurants due to "challenging market conditions" during the pandemic.

The following year, signs were plastered onto the Exeter unit, revealing that a new 'food marketplace' called Gourmet 4 was planning to take it over and replace Chiquito with four restaurants under one roof. The brands advertised are Smokey Joe's, 3 Amigos, Saucy Chicks and Fat Burgers.

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The site remains empty nearly three years later, despite signage still being in place stating that Gourmet 4 is "coming soon" and is looking for staff. DevonLive has contacted the company for an update but has received no response.

In 2022, it appeared that plans for the unit had changed as Tim Horton's applied to take it on. The Canadian chain, best known for its coffee and doughnuts, was granted planning permission to turn the restaurant into a coffee shop with takeaway and a drive-thru. Tim Horton's has been contacted for comment on whether they still plan to open in Exeter but is yet to respond.

Empty unit Alphington Park retail in Exeter
Empty unit Alphington Park retail in Exeter -Credit:DevonLive

Last year, the retail park suffered another blow as the Frankie & Benny's restaurant next door was among 18 of the chain's branches to close. The Restaurant Group, who owned the brand at the time, expected to save £5million a year by closing its "loss-making" restaurants.

The site was subsequently listed to let by property consultants Alder King and is still being advertised at an annual rent of £125,000. The listing states that the unit currently has planning consent for restaurant use and has enough space to seat 160 customers.

DevonLive has contacted Alder King to ask whether there has been any interest in the site but the property consultants have not responded.