The group, which also owns the Bar + Block steakhouse concept and the Premier Inn hotel chain, reported in an update on the Stock Exchange today (22 September) that total sales for the six months to 27 August 2020 were down 77.2% year-on-year as a result of the forced closure of most of its sites.
Having reopened 98% of its UK hotels and restaurants by the first week in August, accommodation occupancy improved week on week, averaging 51% in August, but year-on-year accommodation sales only recovered to -47.3% last month.
Diner numbers, meanwhile, fell by just over a third, though the group said it had been helped by the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
Whitbread said it expected demand to remain lower in the short term.
"With demand for travel remaining subdued, we are now having to make some very difficult decisions, and it is with great regret that today we are announcing our intention to enter into a consultation process that could result in up to 6,000 redundancies in the UK, of which it is hoped that a significant proportion can be achieved voluntarily," said CEO Alison Brittain.
"In line with our longstanding values of treating our people fairly, our priority is now to ensure that this process is clear and transparent for all colleagues and that everyone impacted is supported throughout.
"We will continue to focus on the safety of our guests and teams and the continuity of our business. Maintaining our financial flexibility alongside our leading operating model and powerful brand will allow Whitbread to pursue enhanced long-term structural growth opportunities both in the UK and Germany.
"This will leave us in a position of strength to continue to invest, increase market share, support our colleagues, guests and suppliers and create value for shareholders."
In an immediate response to the crisis in March, the business postponed and cancelled all non-critical spend, accessed government schemes, implemented a £1bn rights issue and initiated a process to reduce its head office headcount by approximately 15%-20%.