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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Global restaurant chain Pizza Express said on Tuesday that it will close 67 restaurants in the UK, putting up to 1,100 jobs at risk.
The British-based business, which has over 600 restaurants including more than 100 overseas in countries including China, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, blamed the challenging environment brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The chain also announced it had put itself up for sale to boost liquidity.
Since the start of this month, UK restaurants have been allowed to discount food by 50 per cent from Monday to Wednesday (to a maximum saving of £10 per diner) and claim the money back from the government in an attempt to support the catering business and lure customers back. Pizza Express is among the more than 72,000 establishments participating in the programme.
"While we have had to make some very difficult decisions, none of which has been taken lightly, we are confident in the actions being taken to reduce the level of debt, create a more focused business and improve the operational performance, all of which puts us in a much stronger position,” Andy Pellington, Pizza Express’s group chief financial officer, said.
"We can now plan to invest in both our UK [and Ireland] and international businesses as well as support our teams as they return to work."
Pizza Express in the UK had to close its doors on March 20 before Britain went into a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
Zoe Bowley, the company’s UK and Ireland managing director, said that the lockdown hit the country’s hospitality industry particularly hard.
"While the financial restructuring is a positive step forward, at the same time we have had to make some really tough decisions,” she added.
"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."
"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,” she added.
"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."
Updated: August 4, 2020 02:26 PM
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