The owner of Frankie & Benny's said sales slipped at the start of its year, despite good weather and strong cinema releases, as the firm bids to revive its fortunes.

The Restaurant Group, which owns 491 UK outlets including Garfunkel's and Chiquito, said sales in stores open for more than a year fell 1.8% in the 20 weeks to 21 May. Total group sales were down by 1.5%.

This came despite a strong roster of film releases at the start of the year, including La La Land, The Lego Batman Movie and Beauty And The Beast. The group has many sites in shopping malls with cinemas that attract diners.

The troubled FTSE 250 group said during the period some of its outlets were "helped by favourable weather" while others "benefitted from cinema admissions having a good start to the year".

It added: "2017 is a transitional year. We continue to address the competitiveness of our leisure businesses and are focused on achieving a sustainable volume-led turnaround."

The group said it was trading in line with full-year expectations. The business swung to an annual loss of £39.5m, compared to a pre-tax profit of £86.8m the year before, when it posted its full-year trading in March.

It admitted it had suffered "a challenging" 2016 after failing to properly test new more expensive menus with customers, which meant crowd-pleaser dishes like chicken parmigiana had been mistakenly removed at Frankie & Benny's. The group will close 33 sites.

The business faces tough competition in the casual dining market from rivals such as Nando's, Byron and Turtle Bay.

Former Paddy Power boss Andy McCue was hired to lead the turnaround, replacing former chief executive Danny Breithaupt in September.