Shares in PizzaExpress started to recover from the past week's losses on Wednesday, after two of the company's directors made a leap of faith to the tune of 11,000 shares.

The shares closed at 672.5p, an increase of 12.5p or 1.89% on the end of the previous day.

Tuesday saw Paul Campbell buy 3,000 ordinary shares of 10p each at 660 p per share, adding to his stake of 4,200 shares. On Wednesday Nigel Colne bought 8,000 ordinary shares of 10p each at a price of 665p per share, his first purchase of the company's stock.

The total value of the shares acquired was £73,000.

On Tuesday the company's shares fell to a year low of 651.82p far off the year's high point: a share price of 973p last June.

The latest glitch for PizzaExpress began on Friday, when the share price fell 70p to 710p after rumours that the restaurant chain's management is believed to have said that the group would not match its full-year earnings expectations because of poor trading in London.

City sources say the group's chief financial officer said in private briefings with at least one analyst that the group will not match full-year expectations because of continued deterioration in the Central London market.

Central London accounts for around 60% of PizzaExpress's profits. One broker told clients in a note on Friday: "Management confided with brokers that they would not make numbers. The chain is therefore more sensitive to tourism and economic cycles that had been thought and management issues have risen again."

However, PizzaExpress's chief executive, Page, said the group's guidance on London is unchanged, and business outside London remains "buoyant".

One City broker, Numis Securities moved PizzaExpress to "sell" from "add", cutting its price target to 600p from 875p and its 2002 pre-tax profit forecasts to £42m from £45m in 2002, and to £48m from £55m in 2003.

Numis's figures are well below the consensus of brokers, which suggest profits at PizzaExpress of £45.3m and £53.2m this year and next. But Numis told clients its move was based on a more immediate fundamental concern about PizzaExpress's current trading. It cited a continuing decline in like-for-like sales in central London, which it said would have a more serious effect on the decline in profits than had earlier been thought.

Numis recommended Ask Central as a high quality alternative without PizzaExpress's exposure to London.

PizzaExpress's management denied it had given fresh guidance to Numis in relation to current trading. David Page suggested Numis's analyst Andrew Saunders miscalculated growth expectations in an "add" note released on 8 April.