We can’t pay the rent, warns Pizza Ex­press

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Front Page - By Rachel Mil­lard

PIZZA EX­PRESS is with­hold­ing rent pay­ments as it bat­tles its way through the pan­demic.

The chain wrote to land­lords on Fri­day say­ing it is not in a po­si­tion to pay quar­terly bills that fell due last week as it reels from the fi­nan­cial chaos caused by lock­down.

Bosses said it is tak­ing a de­lib­er­ately cau­tious ap­proach as it is un­clear how cus­tomers will re­act when 46 of its UK restau­rants re­open from July 9.

Strin­gent safety mea­sures will also make run­ning out­lets more chal­leng­ing as Bri­tain emerges into the so­cially dis­tant “new nor­mal” be­ing de­manded by sci­en­tists, it said,

Pizza Ex­press was or­dered to close on March 20 along with all other restau­rants, al­though some branches have since opened for take­aways and it has con­tin­ued to sell prod­ucts through su­per­mar­kets.

Fig­ures out last week sug­gest com­mer­cial land­lords – who are banned from evict­ing ten­ants dur­ing the cri­sis – col­lected less than 20pc of what they were owed on the June 24 quar­ter day.

Frankie and Benny’s owner The Restau­rant Group won back­ing from its cred­i­tors yes­ter­day for a com­pany vol­un­tary ar­range­ment un­der which 125 sites will close, while 85 of the re­main­ing 160 will get re­duced rents and re­vised lease terms.

“We con­tinue to en­gage with land­lords,” a Pizza Ex­press spokesman said.

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