PIZZA Express restaurants in Stourbridge and at intu Merry Hill now stand empty after it was confirmed they would close for good as part of company restructuring plans.

The closure of Pizza Express Stourbridge, which occupied a distinctive period building in the High Street for many years, has been described as a huge loss to the town - while Pizza Express at intu Merry Hill is sure to be missed as the pizza chain occupied one of the flagship units in the mall's Eat Central food court.

The restaurants are among 73 Pizza Express branches that have been axed as the company reduces its UK estate and rental cost base via a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) aimed at improving trading fortunes amid the Covid-19 crisis, which has now been approved.

Stourbridge town ward councillor Steve Clark said he was "gutted" to see the restaurant vacate the town and a spokesman for intu Merry Hill said this week: “We are sorry to hear that Pizza Express is closing down and we wish its staff well.

"We always work hard to refresh our store line-up to give our visitors the best possible shopping experience and we are really excited to welcome some fantastic new stores and brands to the centre including Bon Pan Asia restaurant later this year.”

It is not known how many jobs have been lost locally as Pizza Express would not confirm individual store numbers but nationwide around 1,100 members of staff have been affected.

A spokesman for the pizza chain said: "The directors of Pizza Express thank its creditors for their support during this period and look forward to ongoing partnership as the hospitality industry recovers to growth.

"As previously announced, the CVA is a key component of a wider financial restructuring which will strengthen the business for the future.

"The successful vote unlocks the company’s ability to actively address the challenges brought by Covid-19, securing over 9,000 jobs in the UK.

"355 Pizza Express restaurants are currently open in the UK, with over 30 more restaurants and Live venues scheduled to reopen in the coming weeks."