• U.S. San Marzano closures hit Pizza Express bottom line

The November closures of two San Marzano restaurants in Washington, D.C. and two more in Philadelphia cost London-based Pizza Express about $490,000, according to The Times of London.

The restaurants were joint ventures run by Avado Brands, a U.S. restaurant firm which owns Don Pablo's Mexican Kitchens and Hops Restaurant and Breweries.

The Italian-themed pizza and pasta casual restaurants had never performed well since the company began opening them here two years ago. When business declined significantly following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Pizza Express officials shuttered them. One other San Marzano, operated in New York City by Belgo, Inc., closed in 2000.

For the final six months of 2001 (the first half of the company's fiscal year), Pizza Express posted modest sales gains of 3 percent at its 287 restaurants in the U.K., 7 percent below the same period last year.

On Feb. 11, the company reported the departure of its CEO, Ian Eldridge. As reported in The Guardian, Eldrige pocketed a $122,000 payment upon his exit.

Pizza Express chairman David Page will handle CEO duties until Eldridge's replacement is found.

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