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Pizza Express eyes restaurant closures in UK, but Milano in Ireland to stay open

Pizza Express operates the Milano restaurants in Ireland.

Pizza Express restaurant in the UK.
Pizza Express restaurant in the UK.
Image: PA

PIZZA EXPRESS HAS said it could close around 67 of its UK restaurants and cut up to 1,100 jobs, but Irish Milano restaurants are set to remain open.

The chain operates the 19 Milano restaurants in several counties across Ireland. It confirmed Irish restaurants will not be affected by the closures. 

In a statement, a spokesperson for Pizza Express said: “Milano restaurants are not included within the CVA proposal, and will remain open.”

The restaurant chain said it plans to launch a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) “in the near future”, in a move which could lead to the closure of 15% of its 449 restaurants in the UK.

However, it stressed that the final outcome of the restructuring has “yet to be decided”.

Pizza Express, which is majority-owned by Chinese firm Hony Capital, said it has also hired advisers from Lazard to lead a sale process for the business.

The company closed all of its UK restaurants on March 23, before starting a phased reopening of sites last month.

It said the coronavirus pandemic has been a “huge setback” for the restaurant sector but it believes the turnaround plan “will put the business on a stronger financial footing in the new socially distanced environment”.

Group chief finance officer Andy Pellington said: “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 & Ireland and international businesses as well as support our teams as they return to work.”

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UK & Ireland managing director Zoe Bowley said: “Our business has a long history of success, but the UK-wide lockdown has hit the 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.

“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 operates Milano restaurants in Dublin, Galway, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Clare and Kildare.

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer

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