Zizzi and Ask Italian owners to shut 75 restaurants after rescue deal

The owner of Ask Italian and Zizzi pizza chains will not reopen around 75 of its restaurants following the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in the loss of up to 1,200 jobs.

The Azzuri Group is being taken over by investment firm TowerBrook Capital Partners, which plans to keep open 225 restaurants and shops, protecting 5,000 jobs.

But approximately 75 sites fall outside the scope of the deal and will subsequently close.

It is unclear which restaurants will be affected.

The dining sector has been knocked hard by the lockdown and pandemic, with a raft of restaurants having announced closures and jobs losses in recent weeks after seeing sales decimated.

Frankie and Benny’s owner The Restaurant Group put up to 3,000 jobs on the line after announcing it was going to close 125 sites, and Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge owner Casual Dining Group said it would close 91 restaurants after calling in administrators.

Pizza Express is reportedly planning to axe around 75 sites across the UK.

Steve Holmes, the chief executive of Azzurri Group, which also owns the Coco di Mama and Pod fast-food chains, said the Covid-19 crisis had had “a profound impact on the casual dining sector, bringing many businesses like ours to a standstill”.

“Despite being a successful operator, the immediate loss of revenue during lockdown meant that we have had to make some incredibly difficult decisions to protect the business for the long term,” he said.

“It is with deep sadness that this process will result in the permanent closure of a number of sites and that we must say goodbye to greatly valued employees across our brands.

“Looking forwards, TowerBrook is a strong new partner who shares our ambitions for the future.

“Their additional investment has enabled us to preserve the majority of our restaurants, stores and jobs and I am confident that, under TowerBrook’s ownership, Azzurri will navigate the period ahead successfully.”

TowerBrook will invest around £70m to support Azzurri Group and plans to reopen 40 pizza restaurants next week, followed by its Coco di Mama chain and more Ask and Zizzi sites later in the summer. Pod will switch to delivery only.


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