JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) said on Thursday that up to 130 jobs were at risk at its head office, as the popular pub operator warned that the coronavirus crisis had resulted in a downturn in trade in the hospitality industry.
The company said that it had written to all 417 people employed at its head office, including those based outside of its headquarters in Watford, to inform them that between 110 and 130 positions were at risk of redundancy.
“The decision is mainly a result of a downturn in trade in the pub and restaurant industry generally,” said chief executive John Hutson on Thursday.
Hutson noted that the company was slowing its expansion plans and reducing the number of pubs it operates.
“We should emphasise that no firm decisions have been made at this stage. All head office employees will be affected by the process, with the exception of those working directly in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” he said.
The redundancies will also not affect staff working in the company’s 873 pubs in the UK and Ireland, the company said.
Pubs across the UK reopened at the beginning of July, having being forced to close in March as part of sweeping coronavirus restrictions introduced by the government.
In May, Wetherspoon founder and chairman Tim Martin criticised the closures, calling the move “over the top” and saying that pubs should stay open “for the duration” of the pandemic.
“I think that once you shut them down it's very difficult. Supermarkets are very, very crowded. Pubs are much less crowded. There's hardly been any transmission of the virus within pubs,” Martin said.
The British Beer and Pubs Association estimates that around £450m ($592m) was spent to both restock pubs and introduce measures to ensure they were compliant with public health guidelines.
The pub sector is worth £23bn to the UK economy and supports some one million jobs, but it has been severely dented by the crisis.
Though most pubs have now reopened, trade has been impacted by lingering fears about the spread of the virus and new restrictions on how pubs can operate.
The news comes in spite of the rollout of the government’s landmark Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which will see the Treasury pay up to 50% of a customer’s bill at participating restaurants this month.
Wetherspoon is one of the more than 72,000 businesses that have signed up to take part in the scheme. Independent eateries and well-known restaurants such as Nando’s and Costa Coffee are also taking part.