Major Food Chain, Retailers to Slash Jobs in UK

July 1, 2020 Updated: July 1, 2020

Multinational catering company SSP Group said it is cutting up to 5,000 jobs in the UK due to the travel restrictions during the CCP virus pandemic.

Meanwhile, Harrods, John Lewis, Harveys, and TM Lewin also announced job cuts and store closures.

British TV channel Sky News revealed on Tuesday that a message sent to SSP staff said the company had no choice but to start “a collective consultation on a number of proposed changes to the business.”

“This includes a proposed reorganisation which could lead to a headcount reduction of up to c.5,000 across SSP Group, SSP Finance and SSP UK, which includes all head office colleagues and both salaries and hourly paid colleagues in operations.”

SSP employs approximately 9,000 across the UK.

Founded in 1961 in the UK, SSP Group owns travel food chains Upper Crust, Heven, Camden Food co., Cabin, and Ritazza, and operates some branches for other major brands including Burger King and Starbucks.

Caffe Ritazza
A pedestrian wears a mask as he walks past a closed-down and shuttered Caffe Ritazza coffee and food outlet in a train station in London, UK, on July 1, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

The company says it was serving around 1.5 million customers in 180 airports and 300 rail stations in 35 countries per day before the pandemic.

The travel industry has been hard-hit from the impact of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic. SSP had to close most of its stores in late March. Among almost 600 of its stores in the UK, less than 10 are open. In the company’s Interim Results report (pdf), SSP estimated the pandemic reduced its first half of year sales by approximately between £145 million and £150 million. By the end of May, sales were running approximately 95 percent below last year’s number.

Although travel industry is projected to have a slow recovery, Simon Smith, CEO of SSP Groups, is cautiously optimistic.

“Looking forward, and with sufficient liquidity to manage a pessimistic trading scenario, I believe the actions we have been taking during this crisis will make us a fitter and stronger business, well placed to deliver for all our stakeholders as the travel market recovers,” said Smith.

John Lewis store
Employees fix a sign on the front of John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in London, UK, on June  16, 2020. (Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

High Street Stores Closing

In a letter obtained by Evening Standard, Sharon White, chairwoman of department store John Lewis, warned employees there will likely be store closures.

“The difficult reality is that we have too much store space for the way people want to shop now. As difficult as it is, we now know that it is highly unlikely that we will reopen all our John Lewis stores. Regrettably, it is likely that there will implications for some Partners’ jobs. We are in active discussions with landlords about ending some leases and renegotiating others to make the terms more flexible.”

John Lewis store
A man wears a protective mask as he walks past the front entrance of John Lewis department store on Oxford Street in central London, UK, on March 21, 2020. (Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images)

Harrods, another luxury department store, said on Wednesday it plans to cut up to 672 jobs because of the CCP virus crisis, which kept its flagship branch in central London closed for nearly three months.

Harrods, which is owned by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), told staff it needed to shed up to 14 percent of its total workforce of 4,800.

Philip Green’s British fashion group Arcadia, owner of high street brands Topshop and Dorothy Perkins, also said Wednesday it plans to cut 500 of its head office workforce of 2,500.

TM Lewin, Bensons for Beds, and Harveys are also among the companies to shed jobs.

The announcements come after Airbus and EasyJet announced job cuts the day before. The BBC says the total number of job losses in the UK over the last two days is at least 11,000.

Reuters contributed to this report