Pizza Express completes refinancing deal and appoints new bosses

·3-min read
It comes after the embattled restaurant group announced last week that it would cut another 1,300 jobs across its UK restaurants. Photo: Dave Rushen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
It comes after the embattled restaurant group announced last week that it would cut another 1,300 jobs across its UK restaurants. Photo: Dave Rushen/SOPA/LightRocket via Getty Images

Pizza Express has shaken up its leadership and appointed new bosses after completing a refinancing deal, which will see it push ahead with its major turnaround plan due to COVID-19.

The restaurant chain has named former Wagamama boss David Campbell as its new chief executive, while former Asda chief Allan Leighton will be its new chairman.

It comes after the embattled chain announced last week week that it would cut another 1,300 jobs across its 370 UK restaurants. It said its city centre sites had been “particularly hard-hit” after a slump in footfall, but a number of suburban and out-of-town locations saw more resilient trading.

Announcing the new cuts, it said it’s takeaway, delivery and retail operations “performed strongly” this year, but customer demand to dine in at restaurants has been “more variable, particularly in recent weeks,” amid virus restrictions.

It had already announced a major restructuring in September, which resulted in 1,100 job losses, 73 restaurant closures and a major refinancing plan to slash its debts.

On Friday, the chain said it has now completed the programme designed to secure its long-term financial future.

Pizza Express said the refinancing has slashed its debt by over £400m ($526m) to £319m. £40m of the new cash will be immediately injected into the business.

The business also has a further £90m of funds available from bondholders who took control of the business, Pizza Express said.

Managing director, Zoe Bowley, of Pizza Express UK & Ireland, said: “2020 has been a very tough year and obviously remains so as we start the second lockdown.”

“After the reshaping of the company, we can now start to accelerate and grow Pizza Express, with new shareholders, a strong balance sheet, and a new experienced chairman and group chief executive,” she added.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 1,100 jobs at risk as creditors approve Pizza Express restructure

Campbell, who left Wagamama in 2017, will spearhead the chain’s recovery out of the coronavirus crisis, as its restaurants are closed for four weeks up to 2 December following the lockdown in England.

During his time at Wagamama, Campbell played a lead role in the turnaround at the pan-Asian chain, which is owned by the Restaurant Group (RTN.L) helping it expand further across the UK.

He said: “PizzaExpress is an iconic brand, which has enjoyed much success over its 55-year history. The chance to steer the company to even greater heights in the years ahead is an honour.

“I am very much looking forward to working with the team and, with the backing of a strong balance sheet, on some exciting times ahead.”

Former Asda boss Leighton said: “This is a unique opportunity in casual dining.

“With a significant recapitalisation of the company, and substantial further funds committed, we look to building on our position as a leader in the casual dining market, once COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

“There is great future for Pizza Express delivering great pizza and a brilliant customer experience.”

Watch: Pizza Express to slash another 1,300 jobs