OWNERS of two O’Briens sandwich shops in York and their total of 14 employees are “in limbo” now that their franchisor has gone into administration.

Stuart Bell and his wife, Elaine, who run the franchises in Parliament Street and Low Ousegate, are desperate for more information from the London administrator, Cameron Gunn of ReSolve Partners, who has been appointed to sort out the future of 109 franchise leases in the UK.

The big problem for the Bells is that, like most other O’Briens franchisees, they are sub-tenants of O’Briens, which in most cases holds the leases.

There are reports that the administrators want reduced rental terms agreed between themselves and the landlords.

Mr Bell said: “We have been waiting to hear from the administrator about the lease situation on both our shops.

“Reduction in the rents would be good, but are we going to have premises to trade from? It is worrying that the company holds the leases. City of York Council is the landlord of the Parliament Street premises, but I am not sure who owns the building in Low Ousegate. Had we been able to rent directly from the landlords, there would have been no risk, but I can’t plan for the future until I know exactly what is going on.”

One plan scuppered for the Bells was their intention to build on their success over the past two years and open a third store before Christmas.

“That has been put on hold,” said Stuart. “It is a pity because while the business in York has had its ups and downs, trade has been improving lately.

“We need to know what is happening to the leases because, if you’ll pardon the phrase, this venture is our bread and butter. Until we get full clarification, we are in limbo.”

Mr Gunn told The Press: “It is very much business as usual for the franchisees. I am seeking to sell the leases with the businesses as going concerns and there has been substantial interest.”

His advice to the Bells was: “Continue to do what you do well. As soon as we have fresh news we will make an announcement, probably in seven to ten days.”