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Pizza Express ‘working on plans to close around 75 sites across UK’

The group is reportedly in talks over a restructuring that could see it shut eateries and slash rents to weather the coronavirus crisis.

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Pizza Express is thought to employ around 8,000 people in the UK (PA)

Pizza Express is thought to employ around 8,000 people in the UK (PA)

Pizza Express is thought to employ around 8,000 people in the UK (PA)

Restaurant chain Pizza Express is reportedly planning to axe around 75 sites across the UK as part of a rescue deal that could put hundreds of jobs at risk.

The group is working on a restructuring to weather the coronavirus crisis, which is set to see it hold talks with landlords to shed hard-hit eateries and slash rents, according to Sky News.

It is understood the final number of its 490 UK and Ireland restaurants under threat of closure will depend on these talks as part of the so-called company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

Pizza Express also has sites overseas and is thought to employ around 8,000 people in the UK.

Restaurants have been knocked hard by the lockdown and pandemic, with a raft having announced closures and jobs losses in recent weeks after seeing sales decimated.

Frankie and Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group put up to 3,000 jobs on the line after announcing it was going to close 125 sites, and Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge owner Casual Dining Group said it would close 91 restaurants after calling in administrators.

It is thought Pizza Express is also working on a wider restructuring that could see the group taken over by its lenders as part of a debt-for-equity swap.

The group is in negotiations that may see Chinese private equity owner Hony Capital hand control of the UK arm to bondholders, according to reports late on Wednesday.

Pizza Express declined to comment.

The chain – which was founded in 1965 – was bought by Hony Capital for £900 million in 2014.

It was previously owned by the Gondola Group, which also owned Zizzi and ASK Italian, before offloading those chains in the same year.

Hony Capital was not immediately available for comment.

PA