Pizza Express sales rise in first half but costs weigh on profits

Sales at Pizza Express were higher in the first half, as the restaurant chain focused on upgrading its eateries.

Total sales rose 2.6% in the 26 weeks to June 30, while like-for-like sales were up 0.2%.

Underlying earnings were down 7.7% to £32.4 million, with the decline blamed primarily on rising costs in the UK.

For the British and Irish business, total sales rose 0.5% but like-for-likes fell 0.2%.

Chairman and chief executive Jinlong Wang said the company was focusing on cost control and efficiency, while remaining cautious about new openings.

“We are taking a measured approach to growing our business in the UK and Ireland, and in the first half we opened a net two new sites,” he said.

“We are now planning to focus our capital investment on upgrading our existing estate rather than adding more sites.

Earlier this year the group revamped and reopened its Langham Place site in London, debuting the “Future Express” restaurant concept which is designed to put greater emphasis on sociability.

Another six sites have since been refurbished, leading to what Mr Wang said was an “increased sales performance”.

Other fresh initiatives include adding more low-calorie and vegan dishes to the menu and expanding a partnership with Deliveroo.

Sales in Pizza Express’s international operations, which now generate 21% of group revenue, were up 11.5%. On a like-for-like basis sales were up 0.5%.

“Throughout the first half of this year we have continued to invest in our brand proposition, develop new formats and maximise operational efficiencies,” said Mr Wang.

“In China for example, to appeal to changing consumer demands we recently launched a refreshed menu, reinforcing our differentiated offering and highlighting that pizza is at the very heart of our business.”

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