Pizza Express to close 73 UK restaurants with 1,100 jobs affected

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Pizza Express has announced plans to permanently close 73 of its restaurants, which will mean getting rid of 1,100 members of staff, as part of a major restructuring plan to shore up its finances.

The chain has formally launched a proposal to reduce its restaurant estate and rental cost base through a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA).

A CVA allows a company with debt problems or that is insolvent to reach a voluntary agreement with its business creditors regarding repayment of all, or part of its corporate debts over an agreed period of time.

The company had previously said it could close 67 of its UK restaurants.

The high street Italian chain also said it put itself up for sale after bringing in experts.

It added that the reduction in revenue caused by the enforced closure of all restaurants, the cost of reopening and the UK's uncertain economic future meant its rental costs were no longer sustainable.

Pizza Express, which is majority owned by Chinese firm Hony Capital, also confirmed it had hired advisers from Lazard to lead a sale process for the business.

UK & Ireland managing director Zoe Bowley said the impact of the coronavirus pandemic had led to some “incredibly tough decisions to safeguard Pizza Express for the long term”.

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.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: "These situations are never easy, particularly now for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses on our high streets at the sharp end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Property owners, however, need to take into consideration the impact on their investors, including the millions of people whose savings and pensions are invested in commercial property, as they vote on any CVA proposal."

The company said it would seek approval of the CVA proposals from its creditors by way of a virtual meeting on September 4.

The announcement is the latest jobs crisis to hit the British high street in recent months.

Other firms have used the coronavirus crisis to announce major restructuring and jobs losses, including Café Rouge owner Casual Dining Group, Pizza Hut, Prezzo and Carluccio's.

Pizza Express has signed up to the Government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which allows diners to have 50% off meals out on Mondays to Wednesdays throughout August.

This scheme is designed to help the UK's beleaguered restaurants.

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