Pizza Express could close 67 outlets and cut 1,100 jobs

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Pizza Express plans to close 15% of its UK restaurants, which would mean the loss of 1,100 jobs.

The chain is the latest High Street outlet to undertake a restructuring of its activity after the cessation of trade by the coronavirus pandemic.

It is preparing to launch insolvency proceedings which could see the closure of 67 of its 449 points of sale.

The firm did not say which sites are concerned, the final result of the restructuring having “not yet been decided”.

Zoe Bowley, general manager of Pizza Express for the UK and Ireland, said that while the financial restructuring would be a “positive step forward” the closures would be “incredibly sad for our Pizza Express family and we will do all we can. possible to support our teams. at the moment “.

Previously, Pizza Express has said the majority of its restaurants are profitable.

“Encouraging” request

The company closed all of its UK restaurants on March 23 after the government-mandated lockdown.

Restaurants were allowed to reopen in July. Pizza Express opened 60 initially and said in Tuesday’s statement that customer demand had been “encouraging” from customers.

It now has 166 outlets open as the Eat Out to Help Out initiative kicks off, and indicates that plans to reopen are well advanced.

The company said the restructuring would put the company on a more solid financial footing in the new, socially remote environment.

Pizza Express is in heavy debt and it is known that last year it started talks to put its debts of over £ 1 billion on more favorable terms.

He is expected to announce soon a voluntary company agreement (CVA), which is an insolvency procedure allowing a company with debt problems to reach an agreement with its creditors on the payment of all or part of its debts.

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A Brief History of Pizza Express

1965: Pizza Express founder the late Peter Boizot brought a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily to open his first restaurant in Soho, London.

1992: Mr Boizot expanded his empire over the next nearly three decades before selling it for £ 15million to Hugh Osmond and Luke Johnson, the man who was – until recently – chairman of Patisserie Valerie. They went public the following year and finally sold it in 1997 when it was worth £ 150million.

2003: It was taken over in a £ 278million deal by two private equity firms who then launched it two years later – although it lasted less than a year on public markets before being returned to private equity.

2014: It changed hands again, this time to be acquired for £ 900million by its current owner, Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital.

2020: It has more than 600 restaurants around the world: 454 in the UK, including five franchises; 19 in Ireland; 24 in Hong Kong; 6 in Singapore; 14 in the UAE; 60 in China; and 49 other international sites operated by franchisees.

Andy Pellington, Group CFO at Pizza Express, 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, creating a more focused activity and improving operational performance, which puts us in a much stronger position. ”

Julian Cox, partner at BLM law firm, said: “Pizza Express is another household name that has been pushed to the brink by Covid-19.

“While the government has tried to encourage people to walk through the doors with ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, the initiative will clearly not be enough to protect the sector in the long term. “

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