Challenges in its core UK market and fierce competition in China meant that underlying earnings fell by 15.3 per cent last year even as group turnover nudged 1.6 per cent higher to £543 million.
The firm said this was partly down to challenges in some of its less developed international markets, including China where it has been pursuing an expansion of the brand.
In the UK, a higher wage bill and property costs weighed on profitability amid a testing year for the casual dining sector. Several of the chain’s peers, such as Prezzo and Carluccio’s, have been forced to slim down their portfolios.
Underlying like-for-like sales at Pizza Express’ UK business inched up 0.1 per cent in 2018. This excludes the disruption caused by the Beast from the East.
Group chairman and chief executive Jinlong Wang said: “Looking forward, whilst we expect both the UK and international markets to remain competitive we are confident that our focus on customer-led innovation and investment in our brand and our people will put us in a strong position to succeed in this environment and continue to deliver a resilient performance.”