Pizza Express is to axe a further 1,300 jobs in a new round of cost-cutting as the chain braces for tough winter trading under a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The redundancies at the high-street restaurant come on top of 1,100 job losses in August, when Pizza Express agreed a deal with landlords to close 73 of its restaurants, meaning about 2,400 employees – almost a quarter of its previously 10,000-strong workforce – have been made redundant since the start of August.
The job losses were confirmed just before the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, which supported the salaries of furloughed workers, comes to an end on Saturday. That job scheme will be replaced by a new scheme that is less generous than was the furlough plan at the start of the UK lockdown in March.
The latest redundancies will be spread across the company’s 370 remaining UK locations, with employees in a variety of roles affected. However, no more restaurants will be closed as part of the latest round of cuts.
Pizza Express is owned by Hony Capital, a Chinese investor which bought it in 2014 in a £900m deal with an ambition to expand into China.
The cuts highlight the difficulties facing the casual dining and hospitality sector as the number of cases of coronavirus surges and the government introduces different levels of restrictions in various parts of the country.
Pizza Express said takeaways, delivery and retail pizzas had performed strongly, but the number of customers dining out had fallen since the summer, and that restaurant capacity had been cut by a quarter to meet social distancing requirements.
Zoe Bowley, Pizza Express’s managing director, said: “Unfortunately, the recent increase in Covid-19 cases is again causing footfall to decline across the UK. As this is expected to continue for some months, we sadly need to make changes that will impact more of our team members.”
Some restaurants in suburban and out-of-town locations have continued to trade comparatively well, but Pizza Express said city centre sites had been hit particularly hard.
About half of the latest round of cuts will be through voluntary redundancies and half compulsory.