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Sainsbury’s to axe 200 instore cafes putting 2,000 jobs at risk

Written by: Emma Lunn
Unions say the supermarket giant must rule out compulsory redundancies after staff were loyal to Sainsbury’s during the pandemic.

Sainsbury’s said 192 coffee bars and seven cafés will be replaced with 30 new restaurant hubs and 30 Starbucks sites. The move follows a successful trial of a new food hall format called The Restaurant Hub at Sainsbury’s Selly Oak store in Birmingham.

Shutting the cafes will put about 2,000 jobs at risk. Sainsbury’s says these workers will be prioritised for vacant roles in Sainsbury’s stores and will also be encouraged to explore alternative roles within the wider business. Sainsbury’s is keeping 67 cafes open while it reviews rollout plans.

The supermarket also announced plans to close less popular hot food counters in 34 stores and simplify the way it runs its bakeries in 54 stores. Affected workers will enter into consultation, with the aim of redeploying those affected to other areas of their store where possible.

Bev Clarkson, Unite national officer for food, drink and agriculture, said: “Our members showed great loyalty to Sainsbury’s during the pandemic. They served their communities during lockdown and ensured Sainsbury’s flourished when other businesses flatlined.

“Now Sainsbury’s must repay them by keeping job losses to an absolute minimum and ruling out compulsory redundancies. Staff that transfer to new café operators must have their wages and terms and conditions protected. Those that want to stay with Sainsbury’s need to be provided with new roles in the company.”

To replace the cafes, Sainsbury’s plans to open 30 new restaurant hubs in its stores in partnership with Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG) which owns Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Carluccio’s, Ed’s Diner and Slim Chickens. The intention is to accelerate the roll-out in the future if the format proves popular with customers.

At the same time, Sainsbury’s will open a further 30 Starbucks coffee shops in its supermarkets in the next 12 months, bringing the total number of Starbucks in Sainsbury’s supermarkets to 60.

Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s chief executive officer, said: “As we go through this period of transition, we have taken the difficult decision to close 200 of our cafes next month. We have spoken to all colleagues affected by these changes today and are absolutely committed to supporting them in any way we can during this uncertain time.

“Of course, we understand this is very unsettling for our colleagues, but we must keep adapting our business to make sure we are offering customers the best possible food and drink at affordable prices.”

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