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Premier Inn owner Whitbread to cut 6,000 jobs amid Covid crisis

Julia KolleweRupert Neate
·9-min read

Two of the UK’s biggest hotel and pub companies have announced plans to axe nearly 6,500 jobs as the prime minister announced new restrictions on the battered hospitality sector, including a 10pm curfew on all pubs that could last up to six months.

Whitbread, which owns Beefeater and Brewers Fayre alongside budget hotel chain Premier Inn, said it plans to cut up to 6,000 jobs because trading has been pummelled since the lockdown. The job cuts represent one in five of the staff.

JD Wetherspoon, which operates almost 900 pubs, announced plans for a further 450 job cuts at its six airport pubs – at Gatwick, Heathrow, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Glasgow airports – due to a collapse in sales. The planned redundancies represent nearly half the number of its employees in the airport pubs.

The pub industry warned that the new curfew would have a “devastating impact on pubs, jobs and local communities”. More than 300 pubs have already closed their doors for the final time so far this year after struggling during the lockdown.

The job losses came as Boris Johnson blamed pubs for being a source of transmission of coronavirus and ordered that all pubs, bars and restaurants must close at 10pm from Thursday for up to six months.

Johnson also banned people from ordering drinks at the bar at any time, permitting only table service until further notice.

Whitbread - 6,000 jobs

22 September: Whitbread, which owns the Premier Inn, Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains, said it would cut 6,000 jobs at its hotels and restaurants, almost one in five of its workforce

Pizza Express – 1,100 jobs
7 September: The restaurant chain confirms the closure of 73 restaurants as part of a rescue restructure deal.

Costa Coffee – 1,650 jobs
3 September: The company, which was bought by Coca-Cola two years ago, is cutting up to 1,650 jobs in its cafes, more than one in 10 of its workforce. The assistant store manager role will go across all shops.

Pret a Manger – 2,890 jobs
27 August: The majority of the cuts are focused on the sandwich chain's shop workers, but 90 roles will be lost in its support centre teams. The cuts include the 1,000 job losses announced on 6 July.

Marks & Spencer – 7,000 jobs
18 August: Food, clothing and homewares retailer cuts jobs in central support centre, regional management and stores.

M&Co – 400 jobs
5 August: M&Co, the Renfrewshire-based clothing retailer, formerly known as Mackays, will close 47 of 215 stores.

WH Smith – 1,500 jobs
5 August: The chain, which sells products ranging from sandwiches to stationery, will cut jobs mainly in UK railway stations and airports. 

Dixons Carphone – 800 jobs
4 August: Electronics retailer Dixons Carphone is cutting 800 managers in its stores as it continues to reduce costs.

DW Sports – 1,700 jobs at risk
3 August: DW Sports fell into administration, closing its retail website immediately and risking the closure of its 150 gyms and shops.

Marks & Spencer – 950 jobs
20 July: The high street stalwart cuts management jobs in stores as well as head office roles related to property and store operations.

Ted Baker – 500 jobs
19 July: About 200 roles to go at the fashion retailer’s London headquarters, the Ugly Brown Building, and the remainder at stores.

Azzurri – 1,200 jobs
17 July: The owner of the Ask Italian and Zizzi pizza chains closes 75 restaurants and makes its Pod lunch business delivery only

Burberry – 500 jobs worldwide
15 July: Total includes 150 posts in UK head offices as luxury brand tries to slash costs by £55m after a slump in sales during the pandemic.

Boots – 4,000 jobs
9 July: Boots is cutting 4,000 jobs – or 7% of its workforce – by closing 48 opticians outlets and reducing staff at its head office in Nottingham as well as some management and customer service roles in stores.

John Lewis – 1,300 jobs
9 July: John Lewis announced that it is planning to permanently close eight of its 50 stores, including full department stores in Birmingham and Watford, with the likely loss of 1,300 jobs.

Celtic Manor – 450 jobs
9 July: Bosses at the Celtic Collection in Newport, which staged golf's Ryder Cup in 2010 and the 2014 Nato Conference, said 450 of its 995 workers will lose their jobs.

Pret a Manger – 1,000 jobs
6 July: Pret a Manger is to permanently close 30 branches and could cut at least 1,000 jobs after suffering “significant operating losses” as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown

Casual Dining Group – 1,900 jobs
2 July: The owner of the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas restaurant chains collapsed into administration, with the immediate loss of 1,900 jobs. The company said multiple offers were on the table for parts of the business but buyers did not want to acquire all the existing sites and 91 of its 250 outlets would remain permanently closed.

Arcadia – 500 jobs
1 July: Arcadia, Sir Philip Green’s troubled fashion group – which owns Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Evans and Wallis – said in July 500 head office jobs out of 2,500 would go in the coming weeks.

SSP Group – 5,000 jobs
1 July: The owner of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza is to axe 5,000 jobs, about half of its workforce, with cuts at its head office and across its UK operations after the pandemic stalled domestic and international travel.

Harrods – 700 jobs
1 July: The department store group is cutting one in seven of its 4,800 employees because of the “ongoing impacts” of the pandemic.

Harveys – 240 jobs
30 June: Administrators made 240 redundancies at the furniture chain Harveys, with more than 1,300 jobs at risk if a buyer cannot be found.

TM Lewin – 600 jobs
30 June: Shirtmaker TM Lewin closed all 66 of its outlets permanently, with the loss of about 600 jobs.

Monsoon Accessorize – 545 jobs
11 June: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by their founder, Peter Simon, in June, in a deal in which 35 stores closed permanently and 545 jobs were lost.

Mulberry – 470 jobs
8 June: The luxury fashion and accessories brand is to cut 25% of its global workforce and has started a consultation with the 470 staff at risk.

The Restaurant Group – 3,000 jobs
3 June: The owner of dining chains such as Wagamama and Frankie & Benny’s has closed most branches of Chiquito and all 11 of its Food & Fuel pubs, with another 120 restaurants to close permanently. Total job losses could reach 3,000.

Clarks – 900 jobs
21 May: Clarks plans to cut 900 office jobs worldwide as it grapples with the growth of online shoe shopping as well as the pandemic.

Oasis and Warehouse – 1,800 jobs
30 April: The fashion brands were bought out of administration by the restructuring firm Hilco in April, with all of their stores permanently closed and 1,800 jobs lost.

Cath Kidston – 900 jobs
21 April: More than 900 jobs were cut immediately at the retro retail label Cath Kidston after the company said it was permanently closing all 60 of its UK stores.

Debenhams – 4,000 jobs
9 April: At least 4,000 jobs will be lost at Debenhams in its head office and closed stores after its collapse into administration in April, for the second time in a year.

Laura Ashley – 2,700 jobs
17 March: Laura Ashley collapsed into administration, with 2,700 job losses, and said rescue talks had been thwarted by the pandemic.

Tim Martin, the founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, said there was no evidence that pubs were a source of transmission and accused the government of being “out of touch and out of control”.

Martin, an ardent Brexiteer and Tory party donor, accused Johnson of imposing the strict measures “to be seen to be doing something”.

He said that of the 861 Wetherspoon’s pubs, only 51 had had reported cases of coronavirus and of those, 40 pubs had only one infection reported.

“Most people think of a pub, a vision from their youth, people dancing, loud music and raucous behaviour,” Martin said. “Most pubs are not like that and no pub when operating social distancing is like that.”

The Night Time Industries Association said if pubs and bars had to close at 10pm, there was likely to be “a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot beds of infection”.

Whitbread said the bulk of the cuts – 4,500 – will come at its Premier Inn budget hotel chain, while another 1,500 jobs will go at its Beefeater and Brewers Fayre chains from November. Most are expected to be voluntary redundancies. Whitbread’s like-for-like sales collapsed by 78% in the first half of the year.

Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said the new restrictions would push hundreds of pubs and bars out of business and lead to thousands of job losses.

“Pub-goers and publicans alike want to stop the spread of Covid-19, but this curfew is an arbitrary restriction that unfairly targets the hospitality sector and will have a devastating impact on pubs, jobs and local communities,” Stainer said.

“This is punishing the thousands of responsible publicans across England who are providing a Covid-secure environment for their communities, while already operating at greatly reduced levels in their efforts to keep their customers safe.”

More than 37,600 English pubs will be affected by the curfew, according to research by commercial property company Altus Group. Many of the pubs complain that the majority of their trade takes place after 10pm, and the early closing will wipe out a great proportion of their takings.

Robert Hayton, head of property tax at Altus Group, said: “Government support worth £1.24bn for English pubs went a long way to protecting their future and ensuring that they could reopen safely in July. But with 315 pubs so far this year calling time for good having been demolished or converted into others types of use, curfews and trading restrictions now present new financial challenges which will require discerning targeted additional support.”

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Greene King, the UK’s largest pub chain, said: “Pubs are just starting to get back on their feet after lockdown and these new restrictions are a significant setback.”

Mackenzie said fewer than 1% of the chain’s 1,700 managed pubs had been contacted by NHS test and trace since reopening in July, which demonstrated that pubs were not disproportionately spreading cases, and that measures were working.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said the curfew was “particularly heart-breaking for those pubs in areas where infection rates remain under control.

“During the current circumstances every hour of trading is crucial to the survival of pubs – for many this curfew will render their businesses unviable.”