Whit­bread to axe 6,000 jobs as Premier Inn busi­ness stalls

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Han­nah Ut­t­ley and Si­mon Foy

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

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