PizzaExpress' creditors have approved a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) that will see the closure of 73 of the group's UK restaurants and 1,100 job losses.
Although the majority of PizzaExpress' UK restaurants were trading profitably before lockdown, earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) across the estate had been declining for the past three years.
Compounded with the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the casual dining market, the group said its rental cost base was no longer sustainable and the CVA proposals included reduced rental agreements and a temporary move from quarterly to monthly rents.
The casual dining chain has said the passing of the CVA will allow it to safeguard 9,000 jobs through a wider financial restructuring.
It is also exploring a sale; if a bid from a third party that is higher than the offer of the holders of the group's existing senior secured notes is not secured, this will trigger a financial restructuring involving around £1b debt being written off, and the injection of up to £60m into the business for future growth plans, with ownership control of the group being acquired by holders of the existing senior secured notes.
More than 89% of creditors, including the majority of landlords, voted in favour of the CVA.
PizzaExpress was founded by Peter Boizot in Soho in 1965 and now has more than 600 restaurants globally, including 454 PizzaExpress pizzerias in the UK, five of which are franchise sites.