North West sites affected as Pizza Express plans to shut 73 restaurants

(Credit: Pizza Express / Instagram)

Pizza Express plans to close 73 restaurants and cut 1,100 jobs as part of a major restructuring of the casual dining business.

Nearly one in six Pizza Express restaurants in the UK will close if its CVA plans are approved. The chain had publicly put itself up for sale earlier this month.

It has become the latest in a long line of chains forced to take drastic steps.

Ask Italian, Bella Italia, Byron, Cafe Rouge, Carluccio’s, Chiquito, and Frankie and Benny’s are among the chains to shut restaurants or restructure their business recently. Further closures are expected in the months ahead, despite Government initiatives led by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.

The casual dining sector does see churn as tastes and trends change, but the lockdown and the pandemic’s longer-term impact on city centre footfall and consumers’ discretionary spend are expected to intensify problems for restaurateurs.

Zoe Bowley, UK & Ireland managing director of Pizza Express, said: “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.”

Pizza Express’s first restaurant was opened in Wardour Street in London in 1965, but that will now close. The chain has been owned by Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital since 2014 and now also has 100 restaurants overseas.

Around 75 jobs in the North West are expected to be at risk after five restaurants – Bramhall, Formby, Heswall, New Brighton and Southport’s Old Bank – were earmarked for closure.

“In most cases, there is another Pizza Express nearby, either already open or reopening soon, to welcome our customers,” said Bowley.

“Unfortunately, the impact of the global pandemic has meant that we have had to make some incredibly tough decisions to safeguard Pizza Express for the long term.”

CVAs have been used with increasing regularity by retail and restaurant chains in recent years, but there have been criticisms of landlords being left with ultimatums and unpaid bills.

However Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation (BPF) confirmed that Pizza Express and its advisors Deloitte had “engaged” before launching its CVA plans.

She said: “This has provided us an opportunity to improve understanding of property owners’ interests and concerns, but ultimately it will be for individual property owners to decide how they will vote on the CVA.”

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