Azzurri announces raft of closures and redundancies following pre-pack sale

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Azzurri Group restaurant closures redundancies pre-pack administration Ask Italian Coco di Mama Zizzi

Related tags Azzurri Administration Closure Redundancy Casual dining Restaurant

The Azzurri Group is to close around 75 restaurants in its estate, with a loss of more than 1,000 jobs.

It comes after the business was acquired by TowerBrook Capital Partners through a pre-pack administration deal.

Azzurri, which owns the Ask Italian, Coco di Mama and Zizzi high street restaurant brands, has been considering its options for the past several months, having appointed KPMG as advisors​ in May.

Will Wright, Chris Pole and Steve Absolom from KPMG’s were appointed joint administrators to the group on 17 July 2020.

Immediately following their appointment, the joint administrators sold Azzurri's brands and certain assets to TowerBrook Capital Partners, which is a long-term investor in the business.

To support the group's recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, TowerBrook has committed over £70m to restructure the group's balance sheet and provide capacity for future growth. 

As a result of the sale, approximately 225 restaurants in Azzurri's 301-strong estate will continue to trade, safeguarding the jobs of c.5,000 employees.However, 75 other sites are set to close, resulting in roughly 1,200 redundancies. 

Healthy breakfast and lunch restaurant brand Pod, which Azzurri acquired in a pre-pack deal last year​, will become a delivery-only brand.

Azzurri says it will now begin to implement a plan to reopen 40 of its ASK Italian and Zizzi restaurants this week; shortly followed by more restaurants, including its Coco di Mama sites, later this summer.

“The Covid-19 crisis has had a profound impact on the casual dining sector, bringing many businesses like ours to a standstill," says Steve Holmes, CEO of Azzurri Group.

"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.

"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.

"We look forward to welcoming customers back in the near future and to our next chapter with optimism.”

The news represents the latest casual dining casualty as a result of the Coronavirus crisis.

Earlier this month Casual Dining Group, which operates brands including Las Iguanas, Bella Italia and Café Rouge, announced plans to close 91 sites with immediate effect​; while multi-brand operator The Restaurant Group entered a company voluntary agreement (CVA) to exit 125 unviable sites​.

Meanwhile, last week it was reported that PizzaExpress is expected to announce the closure of a number of its sites​, also through a CVA process. 

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