Pizza Express today revealed that its first-half earnings had taken a hit on the back of what it termed “sector-wide cost pressures” affecting the UK restaurant industry.
EBITDA for the 26 weeks to July 2 decreased by 14% to £40.6m, with the chain citing business rates, pay rates and food inflation among the challenges threatening profit levels.
CEO Jinlong Wang said the decrease was “expected” and remained upbeat about the chain’s prospects given solid sales growth. He said the company was embarking on various initiatives to partially mitigate the pressures facing the UK market.
Group turnover grew 9% to £260.7m, but more pleasingly for the business it was able to report like-for-like growth of 3.4%. In the UK and Ireland, like-for-like sales improved 1.3%.
“We continued to expand our estate in the UK & Ireland with the opening of eight new sites, including the first Firezza dine-in restaurant on Dean Street, London,” said Mr Wang.
“With the casual dining sector in the UK facing cost headwinds, we have also been identifying ways to develop and diversify our business. In June, we launched PizzaExpress Live, which gives consumers the PizzaExpress dining experience in our restaurants, combined with live music and other entertainment. We have also continued to develop our retail range, including launching our lighter Leggera range in Waitrose.”
Additionally, the restaurant group says it has benefited from investment in new technology.
It has rolled out a new point-of-sale system to help teams and customers, and developed a Facebook chatbot that allows customers to make bookings over Facebook messenger.
Beyond this, it sees “further opportunities to leverage technology to drive sales and enhance productivity”, Mr Wang said.