Chain pizza restaurant Pizza Express is facing the potential closure of 67 restaurants, which would mean the loss of 1,100 jobs, as the company restructures its business.
Pizza Express restaurants had to close their doors to the public from the end of March to the beginning of July due to coronavirus lockdown restrictions, which has led to a restructure of the company.
Why are restaurants facing closure?
The company has said that the restructuring of the business would put it on a stronger financial footing in a post-lockdown environment, which sees restaurants, customers and staff adapting to social distancing measures.
A restructuring of the business has been in the pipeline for over a year, due to the company’s debts wiping away profits.
The chain, which is currently up for sale, blamed the potential store closures on the "significantly more challenging environment", which has been caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Zoe Bowley, UK and Ireland managing director, said: "Our business has a long history of success, but the UK-wide lockdown has hit the hospitality industry particularly hard.”
Which stores are closing?
Pizza Express would not say which of its 449 branches in the UK could possibly close, but that a “proportion” of restaurants will close on a permanent basis.
Ms Bowley adds: "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."
The chain has said that it plans to launch a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) restructuring deal in the near future, which could lead to the closure of 15 per cent of its 449 UK restaurants. This would be around 67 restaurants.
However, the pizza chain has insisted that the final outcome has "yet to be decided".
Andy Pellington, group Chief finance officer, said in a statement: "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.”
Are restaurants currently open?
Only 166 Pizza Express restaurants have so far reopened after closing during lockdown, but all of these are taking part in the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which sees customers getting half price meals on certain days in August.
However, the company has said the demand from customers has been "encouraging" since restaurants opened in July.