Hundreds of people have scrambled for two pub jobs in a sign work in Britain is running dry.
As many as 484 hopefuls applied for two £9-an-hour positions at the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, southwest London.
General manager Mick Dore posted an advert for the roles on Twitter and was staggered by the response.
He later wrote: ‘I don’t want to alarm anyone about the economy or anything, but I advertised two bar jobs at 4.30 on Thursday. We’ve had well over 400 applicants. Gulp.’
The news is reflected across the country, with bosses seeing a huge influx of applicants for entry-level jobs that would usually be unpopular.
It comes after Office For National Statistics figures last week showed workers fell by 74,000 last month, with 649,000 gone since lockdown was imposed in March.
The high street has faced the brunt of the hardship, with retail giants such as John Lewis, Clarks and Pizza Express announcing a wave of job cuts.
As many as 484 hopefuls applied for two £9-an-hour positions at the Alexandra pub in Wimbledon, southwest London
Mr Dore, 53, said he would usually have expected about a dozen replies from younger jobseekers who have done less bar work.
He said on this occasion there were CVs sent from experienced show workers, ex-air stewards and restaurant managers who had lost their jobs amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Dore ended up taking on six workers due to the high-quality of applicants.
The Fitzrovia Belle Pub and Hotel in central London had a similar experience, with 400 people applying for a handful of jobs.
General Manager Rob Fisher, 40, told the Sunday Times: ‘The quality of people looking for work right now is as good as it ever has been. Unfortunately it’s because of the situation people have found themselves in.’
The Fitzrovia Belle Pub and Hotel in central London had a similar experience, with 400 people applying for a handful of jobs
There has also been a dramatic surge in searches for supermarket roles, with Indeed showing a 589 per cent increase compared to a year ago.
Meanwhile data showed maintenance job searches leapt 440 per cent, forklift roles jumped 239 per cent and 18 to 24-year-olds were mostly looking for bar work, digital marketing careers and vacancies as research associates.
But the number of jobs being advertised plummeted 59 per cent as of July 10, compared to the same date in 2019.
Head of research at Indeed Pawel Adrjan said the Covid crisis made job finding more competitive in certain parts of the country.
He added: ‘Growing regional disparities are exacerbating the north-south divide.’
Pizza Express was to latest to reveal it was struggling, as it plans to close around 75 of its 470 UK restaurants, reports last week suggested.
The branches are facing closure as part of a financial restructuring of the business, which is one of Britain’s biggest restaurant operators.
The exact number of branches being closed is yet to be confirmed and could depend on the progress of talks with landlords, set to start next week.
One source told Sky News the number could be higher or lower than 75, but is unlikely to be more than 20 per cent of the restaurant’s UK outlets.
That means as many 94 sites could be closed, impacting hundreds of jobs, with Pizza Express employing 8,000 workers in the UK.
A significant number of Pizza Express restaurants could be forced to close amid the coronavirus pandemic
Peter Boizot, founder of Pizza Express. The branches are facing closure as part of a financial restructuring of the business, potentially affecting hundreds of jobs
The closures would be made as part of an insolvency process called a company voluntary arrangement.
A CVA would be used by Pizza Express to cut its rent obligations across the UK.
It comes as a report suggested the company is set to be taken over by its bondholders, as the high street chain struggles with the loss of revenues during the coronavirus pandemic.
The chain’s Chinese owner, Hony Capital, could lose control of the company as part of a restructuring.
Hony bought Pizza Express in 2014 in a £900million deal, its first branch opened in Beijing.
The investment manager had hoped to drive the growth of Pizza Express in China.
How one man created Pizza Express after he wanted a ‘taste of Italy’ in London
Pizza Express was founded by Peter Boizot in 1965, below is a brief history of the company and how it evolved
1965, London: Peter Boizot visited London and realised that ‘great pizza didn’t exist’ in the capital. His first restaurant was opened that year
1969: Mr Boizot wanted to change the way people ate out and introduced the Pizza Express Jazz Club, which would go on to host the likes of Amy Winehouse
1993: Mr Boizot sells the restaurant chain for a reported £33 million after it was floated on the London Stock Exchange (LSE). It also opened franchises across the UK
1995: The chain expanded into the republic of Ireland
1996: Franchises re-purchased by the company
2003: TDR Capital and Capricorn Associates buy the company and make it private again
2005: Floated again on the LSE
2007: Purchased by private equity group Cinven
2011: Firm launches a major re-brand of its UK restaurants
2014: Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital acquires the brand for £900 million
2017: Launches PizzaExpress Live, which hosts various events including showing stand up comedians
2018: Mr Boizot dies at his home in Peterborough. It is reported that he left assets of £99,050. These were reduced to nil after his liabilities were settled
2019: Employs advisors to help them undergo talks with creditors
But the chain has struggled, particularly in the UK, with the casual dining sector under intense pressure even before the pandemic.
Talks over debt restructuring began in October.
The popular restaurant is thought to have struggled with rising costs and a tough UK trading environment.
In October, Pizza Express was instructed to pay £465million in secured bonds by August 2021. Its next repayment for £200million in unsecured notes is due to be repaid by the following year.
In the second quarter of last year, the company’s earnings fell 11 per cent, while its debt rose 7.9 times before tax and earnings, compared to 6.6 times just a year earlier.
Reports on Companies House from October suggest that the brand has a half a billion pound loan with its parent company, which is currently being paid with a 10 per cent interest rate per year.
As of the end of December 2018 the companies loans and borrowings came in at £1.13 billion.
In 2017 the company cut off Firezza Holdings Limited, which is another pizza fast food chain.
Reacting to the news on Thursday, Nigel Frith, a senior market analyst, told Mail Online: ‘At a time where restaurants are supposed to be coming out of lockdown and taking part in the Eat Out To Help Out scheme, it’s a shame to still see yet another chain axing jobs within the hospitality trade.
‘This constant flow of unemployment within the hospitality industry is continuing to rise and rise and it’s not surprising if there are hardly any restaurants left after the pandemic.
‘It will be interesting to see if closing 75 stores will do any good for the chain – August might be the decider for Pizza Express.
‘Closing 75 out of 470 restaurants within the UK doesn’t seem to much in the grand scheme of things, but when it comes to employees being out of work – the hospitality trade is hardly recruiting at this moment in time, for all we know it could be a lot more stores than we think.
‘Pizza Express was struggling before the pandemic but it looks like this could be the final nail in the coffin.’
It came as it was claimed more than 250,000 High Street jobs could be axed as Britons shop online during the coronavirus crisis.
Experts warned a slew of store closures at John Lewis and Boots are ‘just the start’ of the bloodbath.
The department store chain will shut eight sites, putting 1,300 jobs in peril, and 4,000 will be lost at the health and beauty retailer.
The infamous Woking branch of Pizza Express immortalised by Prince Andrew claiming to have been there on the night Virginia Roberts accused him of sleeping with her
John Lewis confirmed eight of its stores will not be reopening after closing for lockdown.
The ailing department chain will permanently close major sites in Birmingham and Watford, as well as smaller outlets at Heathrow airport, St Pancras train station in London and four At Home shops in Croydon, Newbury, Swindon and Tamworth.
Rolls Royce and Burger King said job cuts were still on the cards, with Boots one of the latest to announce redundancies.
The high street pharmacy said more than 4,000 posts will be axed – seven per cent of its workforce – due to the ‘significant impact’ of Covid-19.