Pizza Express has revealed plans to close almost a fifth of its UK restaurants under a financial restructuring that places 1,100 jobs at risk.
The casual dining chain said it hoped to redeploy some of the staff impacted by the company voluntary arrangement (CVA), first revealed by Sky News, which will also aim to reduce rents across much of its remaining store estate.
The rescue deal, which must be agreed by creditors, will see 73 of its 470 restaurants close permanently following the deep disruption to trading caused by the coronavirus lockdown and the resulting high street jobs crisis.
Pizza Express, which is majority owned by Chinese firm Hony Capital, said it had also placed the business up for sale.
UK & Ireland managing director, Zoe Bowley, said “incredibly tough decisions to safeguard Pizza Express for the long term” had to be taken.
She added: “Today we have confirmed that 73 of our pizzerias are proposed to close permanently.
“In most cases, there is another Pizza Express nearby, either already open or reopening soon, to welcome our customers.
“Our focus is on our people whose jobs are impacted and we will be doing everything we can either to redeploy them or to support them in finding roles elsewhere.
“Hard as this process is, it will protect the jobs of over 9,000 of our colleagues and provide a strong footing for Pizza Express to meet future challenges and opportunities.”
Other restaurant operators, including the Café Rouge owner Casual Dining Group, Prezzo and Carluccio’s, have also been forced by the COVID-19 crisis to call in insolvency practitioners or explore sale processes.
In addition to wage and loan support, the government has aimed to help the wider hospitality sector through its Eat Out to Help Out initiative, which has resulted in more than 35 million taxpayer-funded discounted meals to date.
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