Whitbread to axe 6,000 jobs as Premier Inn business stalls
PREMIER INN owner Whitbread is axing as many as 6,000 jobs and pub chain Wetherspoon plans to sack up to 450 staff as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on ailing hospitality firms.
Whitbread, which also owns chains Beefeater and Brewers Fayre, said the cuts are vital to protect its business. Most cuts will be in its hotel arm, with a significant proportion expected to be voluntary redundancies.
The firm said: “This is a regrettable but necessary step to ensure that we emerge from the crisis with a lower cost base, a more flexible operating model and a stronger, more resilient business.”
Chief executive Alison Brittain said the end of the taxpayer-funded furlough scheme on Oct 31 will be “a significant moment” for the company, forcing it to pick up the full wage bill for all workers. Whitbread is still using the scheme for around 20,000 of its 35,000-strong workforce.
Ms Brittain added that Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, should consider making the temporary cut to VAT for hospitality firms permanent and extend the business rates holiday for another year.
She said: “Any help that can be provided will be enormously helpful.”
Separately, JD Wetherspoon said it had written to 1,000 staff at its pubs in six airports – Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow – over planned job cuts that are expected to put 400 to 450 roles at risk of redundancy, following a collapse in air travel.
John Hutson, chief executive, said: “The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in these pubs, linked with the large reduction in passenger numbers using the airports.
“Wetherspoon is proposing to collectively consult with employees through an employment representative committee, which will be established for this purpose.”
It came as Boris Johnson imposed new restrictions on the hospitality industry, raising fears of further mass job losses in an already embattled industry.
Revenues at Whitbread plunged 78pc in the six months to August compared to a year earlier, reflecting the closure of the vast majority of its hotels and restaurants for a large part of the period.
The company reported strong demand in seaside and tourist spots as families opted for staycations, with occupancy levels hitting around 80pc in these locations during August. But demand remained subdued across the rest of the hotel market, particularly in London and other metropolitan areas.
Restaurant sales were boosted in August by the Government’s Eat Out to Help Out meal subsidy scheme, but were still almost two fifths lower than in the same period last year.
The company tapped investors for £1bn in June to help it weather the crisis.
Alison Brittain, Whitbread chief executive, called for additional help from Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor