High Street casual dining chain Pizza Express is considering closing 67 of its UK restaurants, which would result the loss of 1,100 jobs, bringing the estimated total of jobs lost in the hospitality sector since the pandemic broke to 17,000.
The chain is the latest High Street outlet to commence the restructuring of its business following the three-month coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
The news comes just a day after the government launched its Eat Out to Help Out plan to boost the restaurant trade, and currently the chain has 166 restaurants open, all of which are taking part in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s £10 off meal deal.
The chain said it is planning to launch a company voluntary arrangement in the “near future” in a bid to push down its rents, and stressed that the final outcome of the restructuring has “yet to be decided”, but it may end in the closure of about 15 per cent of its 449 restaurants in the UK.
The restaurant chain also said it had put itself up for sale after bringing in experts – the sale will be run independently to the closure plans.
Zoe Bowley, the firm’s UK and Ireland managing director, said: “While the financial restructuring is a positive step forward, at the same time we have had to make some really tough decisions.
“As a result, it is with a heavy heart that we expect to permanently close a proportion of our restaurants, losing valued team members in the process.
“This is incredibly sad for our Pizza Express family and we will do everything we can to support our teams at this time. As we continue to reopen our restaurants for dine-in and delivery, we will successfully navigate the extended period of social distancing expected in the months ahead and, in so doing, protect 9,000 jobs.
“The initial signs from the restaurants that have been reopened have been very encouraging and we hope that our loyal customers continue to support us now more than ever.”
The news comes just days after burger chain Byron announced it was the close 31 of its 51 restaurants with the loss of 651 jobs in a “pre-pack” rescue deal.
The burger chain has experienced difficulties in the past, which saw the company close ten of its restaurants in 2018 in a restructure following its sale to private equity owners Three Hills Capital. The move allowed the company to wipe out its debts, and underperforming restaurants were sacrificed.