Pizza Express has said it could close around 67 of its UK restaurants and cut up to 1,100 jobs, as part of a major restructuring plan to strengthen its finances.
There are five Pizza Express outlets in Belfast according to the official Pizza Express website: Pizza Express, Lisburn Road; Pizza Express, Place Victoria; Pizza Express, Bedford Street; Pizza Express, Place Sainte-Anne and Pizza Express, Upper Newtownards Road, Ballyhackmore.
The chain said it plans to launch a corporate voluntary agreement (CVA) “in the near future,” in a move that could lead to the closure of 15% of its 449 UK restaurants.
However, he stressed that the final outcome of the restructuring had “not yet been decided”.
Pizza Express, which is majority owned by Chinese company Hony Capital, said it has also hired advisers from Lazard to lead a sales process for the company.
The company closed all of its UK restaurants on March 23 after the government-imposed lockdown, before starting a gradual reopening of sites last month.
He said the coronavirus pandemic has been a “huge setback” for the restaurant industry, but he believes the turnaround plan “will put the company on a stronger financial footing in the new, socially remote environment.”
Customer demand has been “encouraging” since the sites reopened, with 166 outlets now open across the UK, he said.
Group CFO Andy Pellington said: “Although we have had to make some very difficult decisions, none of which were taken lightly, we are confident in the steps being taken to reduce the level of debt, create a more focused business and improve operational performance, which puts us in a much stronger position.
“We can now consider investing in our activities in the UK, Ireland and internationally, as well as supporting our teams when they return to work.”
UK & Ireland Managing Director Zoe Bowley said: “Our company has a long history of success, but the UK-wide foreclosure has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard.
“Although the financial restructuring is a positive step, at the same time we had to make some very difficult decisions.
“As a result, it is with a heavy heart that we plan to permanently close some of our restaurants, losing valuable team members.”
The restructuring will also involve a “significant” deleveraging of the group’s external debt, increasing it from 735 million pounds to 319 million pounds sterling and the extension of maturities.
He also said the move could potentially result in “the transfer of the group’s controlling interest to its holders of secured notes.”
Pizza Express also plans to sell its business in mainland China, where it operates 60 restaurants.