A look back at 2020: The hospitality firms that made the headlines for laying off staff in the pandemic

A look back at 2020: The hospitality firms that made the headlines for laying off staff in the pandemic


he pandemic’s economic pain has been reflected in the number of jobs lost since March 2020 – with the hospitality sector enduring a particularly rough time.  

Despite the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – known as the furlough scheme – many  firms large and small laid off staff over the past 10 months as the crisis devastated profits. Official statistics recorded 370,000 job losses between August and October alone, more than at any point on record, as the pandemic battered the labour market. 

The picture is not expected to brighten any time soon. The UK economy is not expected to return to its pre-crisis size until late 2022, and the Bank of England is predicting unemployment levels will reach their highest in decades at nearly 8% next year.  

Here we round up a list of some of the hospitality firms to hit the headlines in 2020 as they cut costs and laid off staff. The information below reflects what has been announced in public, and is as up-to-date as we could gather:

Azzurri Group – 1,200 jobs

The Azzurri Group, the company behind the Zizzi and Ask Italian chains, announced in July that it would cut up to 1,200 jobs as it would not reopen about 75 restaurants post-lockdown.

The burger chain revealed in late July that it would permanently close more than half its 51 outlets and cut 651 jobs.

It was confirmed as part of a deal that saw its remaining 20 sites and 551 staff transfer to the chain’s new owner, Calverton UK.

Carluccio’s – 1,000 jobs

In one of the first big hospitality job culls announced, in May the Italian restaurant chain was bought out of administration by Boparan Restaurant Group – the owner of Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner.  The move saw the loss of more than 1,019 jobs and the closure of 40 Carluccio’s around the UK.

Casual Dining Group – 1,900 jobs

In July, Casual Dining Group, the owner of Café Rouge, Las Iguanas and Bella Italia, fell into administration. It led to the permanent closure of 91 restaurants and the axing of 1,900 jobs.

Cineworld – 5,500 (potentially temporary cuts)

The world’s second-largest cinema chain Cineworld, which operates 787 screens globally, said in October that around 5,500 UK jobs would go.  The firm, which also owns the Picturehouse chain, has since secured a financing deal set to see it through to spring.

Costa Coffee – 1,650 jobs at risk

In September the coffee chain said 1,650 of its baristas faced redundancy – around 10% of its workforce. The chain is owned by Coca-Cola. At the time, UK and Ireland managing director, Neil Lake, said: “Our baristas are the heart of the Costa business and I am truly sorry that many now face uncertainty.”

Pub group Fuller’s owns scores of pubs across central London, including the famed Coach & Horses in Soho. It revealed in October that it has made 350 workers redundant.  

Boss Simon Emeny has told the Standard hospitality has been “singled out” under tiers restrictions hitting the sector.

Gourmet Burger Kitchen – 362 jobs

Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) announced in October that it is set to close 26 restaurants and axe 362 roles despite being saved from administration.

The chain was bought in a rescue deal by Boparan Restaurant Group, which also snapped Carluccio’s out of insolvency earlier in the pandemic.

Pub giant Greene King, which runs more than 3,100 pubs, restaurants and hotels around the UK, has said it is to slash 800 jobs and close 79 sites as a result of the pandemic hit.

Le Pain Quotidien – 200 jobs

The UK arm of the upmarket bakery chain fell into administration and shed 200 staff as part of a pre-pack deal, and closed 11 of its 26 sites.

Marston’s – 2,150 jobs at risk

Earlier this month the pub group reported seeing losses rise nearly 20-fold this financial year.

The firm has launched consultations on up to 2,150 job losses.

Mitchells&Butlers – 1,300 jobs

Mitchells & Butlers, the company behind All Bar One and the Harvester, Toby Carvery and Browns chains, has revealed it has slashed 1,300 jobs since the end of its financial year.

The FTSE 250 firm which controls more than 1,700 bars, pubs and restaurants, had earlier confirmed it was to close up to 20 sites as a result of the pandemic hit to the hospitality sector.

Pizza Express – 2,400 jobs

In early autumn Pizza Express said it would cut 1,100 jobs and close 73 restaurants.

Weeks later, the firm announced that it is set to cut a further 1,300 jobs across its 370 UK restaurants after sales dipped further.

The chain’s UK restaurant arm cut 450 jobs and shut 29 sites in September to help mitigate the impact of the virus.

However, in November the chain announced that its Pizza Hut Delivery wing is set to hire up to 2,500 staff after its expansion plans were boosted by huge Covid-era demand for takeaways.

Pret a Manger – 3,200 jobs

In October Pret announced the closure of six London outlets and 400 job losses, on top of 2,800 job losses and 30 shop closures previously announced in August.

The office lunch favourite has frequently been referenced by politicians as a sign of the impact of the pandemic on hospitality.

Revolution Bars –  130 jobs

Last month, Revolution Bar Group’s creditors gave the green light to a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) restructuring plan which saw the firm cut 130 jobs, permanently shut six sites and reduce rents on seven other bars.

The travel catering giant, behind brands including Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza, said in July that it was to cut 5,000 jobs as part of a restructuring and cost-saving effort after the pandemic battered its sector.  SSP operates its brands, and franchises such as Starbucks and Burger King, in more than 180 airports and 300 train stations worldwide. The firm said the job cuts would come in its head office and UK operations.

The Restaurant Group – up to 3,000 jobs at risk

The Restaurant Group, behind the Frankie & Benny’s and Wagamama chains, said in the summer that up to 3,000 jobs were at risk – with the majority set to go in the Frankie & Benny’s chain.

Last month the group revealed cash burn of about £5.5 million during the November lockdown, which is £2 million higher than the first lockdown because rents on Frankie & Benny’s sites were payable as part of a deal struck with creditors in the summer. That restructuring allowed the company to close 125 branches.

The pub chain, led by vocal anti-lockdown chief Tim Martin, announced in early autumn that it would cut around 450 staff, most in its airport pubs.  It later announced a further 110 to 130 jobs in its head office and other divisions.

Whitbread – up to 6,000 jobs

Up to 6000 jobs – 18% of the giant’s workforce – were forecast to go at Whitbread, with final decisions made by mid-November. Most were expected in its hotels arm, with many voluntary redundancies anticipated.

The exact final number of job losses is not yet known.

At the time of announcing the cuts, 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.”

In November, Young’s boss Patrick Dardis announced second wave of job cuts as the country endured a second national lockdown.  

The pub group has axed around 1,000 jobs – one fifth of its 5,000-strong staff.

Dardis has said: “It’s been, without doubt, a horrible year.”

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