Sainsbury’s will close 200 in-store cafes and 34 hot food counters next month as part of a big shake-up that puts about 2,000 jobs at risk.

On Tuesday, the UK’s second-largest supermarket chain briefed affected cafe and counter staff on the closure plan and promised to prioritise them for vacant roles.

Sainsbury’s chief executive Simon Roberts said it had been a “difficult decision” to close the cafes and said the company would support them in “any way we can”.

“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,” he added.

The retailer said that in the next 12 month the cafes in 30 stores would be replaced with food halls run by Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), which owns a portfolio of brands including Carluccio’s, Ed’s Diner and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. The number of Starbucks cafes in its supermarkets would also double to 60, it said.

In a similar vein to cost-cutting elsewhere in the supermarket industry as inflation bites, Sainsbury’s said 34 of its “less popular” hot food counters would also be closing. The grocer closed its fresh fish, cheese and meat counters in stores in 2020, which resulted in the loss of about 3,500 jobs.

Sainsbury’s will also be restructuring the bakeries in 54 stores. These employees will enter into consultations, with the aim of redeploying those affected to other areas of their store where possible, the company said.

Usdaw, the retail trade union, said the plan was “devastating” news for members affected by the proposals. Usdaw national officer Dave Gill said it would be holding talks with store managers and “looking at the business case for the company’s planned changes”.

“Usdaw’s priorities are to keep as many staff employed in the business and achieve the best deal possible for those affected,” he said.

Last year, Sainsbury’s began to test shopper reaction to a new food hall with the trial of The Restaurant Hub, in its Selly Oak store in Birmingham.

The retailer said more hubs would open in the next two to three years if they were a hit with shoppers. The remaining 67 cafes are to remain open while Sainsbury’s reviews rollout plans.

Satnam Leihal, the chief executive of BRG, said the food hubs allowed customers to place orders with multiple brands in one transaction. They could be eaten in store or delivered together, with just one delivery charge. “This gives customers choice that never existed before,” he said.

Roberts said trials with BRG and Starbucks had shown that Sainsbury’s could offer a much better eat-in or takeaway experience by working with partners.

“We are totally focused on improving what we can deliver for our customers and, at the same time, working hard to make our business simpler,” he said.

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Sainsbury’s embarks on major in-store shakeup putting 2,000 jobs at risk

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