The British chain restaurant which models itself on a stereotype of the Italian-American red sauce joint, Frankie and Benny’s, is still called — newsflash! — Frankie and Benny’s.
And yet, this comes as something of a surprise, since last autumn, the restaurant brand which is owned by the least imaginatively named business in hospitality, the Restaurant Group, or TRG for short, announced it would dispense with half of itself, renaming — to the significant surprise of hundreds of thousands of Eater London readers — as Frankie’s.
“Oh my god, they killed Benny!” ran the headline of what would become the second-most-read story of 2021.
While TRG said the new name and new look, part of a wider “modernisation” of the brand in October 2021, would initially take place at a site on the edge of an industrial estate in Basildon, Essex, the wider implementation of those changes has not happened.
At the time, Jonathan Knight, managing director at Frankie’s [not Benny’s] said, with few details on the how, “As part of our efforts to evolve the brand and deliver an excellent customer proposition, we are letting Frankie take centre stage and move the brand forward to a bright future.”
Neither TRG nor Cut the Bull, the communications agency which recently spread word of Frankie and Benny’s April fool’s condiment-ban stunt, have responded to numerous requests from Eater for further information regarding the name change or lack thereof.
What is clear is that Frankie and Benny’s — at least in all public displays of its corporate identity — refers to itself as Frankie and Benny’s. A spokesperson eventually confirmed as much to Eater: “The name drop was a one-off test but ultimately there’s no Frankie’s without Benny’s. Therefore the name change is not part of our long term strategy,” they said.
Essex Live had the exclusive first look inside the Basildon branch, which appears to have undergone the promised process of “modernisation.” “It now looks a lot more modern,” the publication observed.
Maybe Basildon is as far as Frankie got on his own. Still, if not back from the dead, Benny does indeed live on.