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*The above articles reflect the law at the date on which they were written. Since that time the law may have changed. No reliance should therefore be placed on any statements or opinions in the articles without first checking that they represent the current state of the law.

Benjys 'vanchisees' pile on pressure

Thirty-three former franchisees of Benjys are suing the company, piling yet more pressure on the embattled sandwich brand.

This comes just a month after it emerged the company's losses had trebled to £5.09m and that it was being sued by a former franchisee of a shop in Brighton.

Four of the 70 high street shops have gone into administration in the past six months.

The latest headache comes from 33 former "vanchisees" who operated vans that sold hot drinks, snacks and sandwiches to office workers. They lodged a writ in the High Court on Tuesday claiming "damages resulting from misrepresentations and/or repudiatory breaches of contract by the defandants".

Benjys had great ambitions for its van delivery business, which it hoped would spread the brand beyond its London heartland.

One of the former so-called vanchisees, Keith Bate, a claimant, said: "It was a very good idea. The van was like a mobile shop, complete with fridge and oven and cappuccino machine. We'd then go to office car parks and set up shop."

Mr Bate bought three franchises in Cheshire. "In Warrington there are tonnes of call centres. I got Vodafone, Carphone Warehouse, big household names as customers. Benjys got the principle right."

However, he is claiming damages of £50,000. He alleges the vans failed to work properly and that Benjys' business model was unsustainable.

Mr Bate says he racked up losses of £8,000 in the first year. This was before he paid out £34,000 for three vans and training. Of the 135 vanchisees 18 months ago, there are just 70 still on the road.

Mr Bate, who co-owns a travel agency, said: "I have a successful background in business. I am not stupid and put in every effort."

Benjys was taken over by the current chief executive Ian Rickwood and his wife Emma, the marketing director, in 2000.

Mr Rickwood said yesterday: "Benjys refutes all claims and doesn't wish to comment any further on the matter. It is having no effect on the day-to-day running of the business."