Pizza Express to close 67 restaurants and put itself up for sale

Pizza Express is weighing up the the closure of around 15% of its 449
restaurants in the UK, the restaurant chain revealed on Tuesday.

It’s the latest High Street outlet to undertake a restructuring of its
business after the coronavirus pandemic forced it to stop trading.

The 55-year-old company said it was planning to launch a company
voluntary arrangement in the near future amid a “significantly more
challenging environment”.

While the outcome has yet to be decided, this may result in the closure
of around 67 restaurants in the UK, affecting 1,100 employees.

A spokesman told the BBC that the company could not yet say which
outlets were being considered for closure.

Pizza Express, currently owned by Chinese private equity firm Hony
Capital, said it believes that reducing the size of its estate will help
protect 9,000 jobs.

The company has also brought in restructuring experts to deal with its
£735m of external debt.

“Our business has a long history of success, but the UK-wide lockdown
has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard,” said UK and Ireland
managing director Zoe Bowley.

“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.”

Andy Pellington, group chief finance officer, added: “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.

“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.”