Slice of good news as pizza giant recruits 1,000 staff as restaurants return

Pizza Express

Pizza Express is to recruit 1,000 new employees as it prepares to reopen its restaurants over May and June and put the ravages of coronavirus behind it.

The hirings, to be announced today, follow a tough year for the chain which, in the wake of the pandemic, closed 73 outlets via a company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

The closures resulted in the loss of 1,100 jobs while a further 1,300 redundancies were announced as part of cost-cutting measures.

The nationwide recruitment campaign across the group’s 360 UK eateries will include 300 posts under the government’s Kickstart initiative.

Pizza Express opened 118 outlets last week for alfresco dining in gardens and terraces, with the whole chain opening next month for indoor dining in line with restrictions. Customer numbers are expected to rise again on June 21 as social distancing is relaxed.

Pizza Express, which was founded in Soho, central London, in 1965 by the late Peter Boizot, was acquired by Beijing-based Hony Capital in 2014 in an £873 million deal.

Under a restructuring in November, Hony retained the Chinese business but handed the keys to the rest of the group to its bondholders.

The chain’s total debt fell from £735 million to £319 million and it received an immediate cash injection of £40 million. On top of that its new owners made a further £90 million available for investment.

New management was also brought in, with Allan Leighton, the former Asda boss, becoming chairman, and David Campbell, the erstwhile Wagamama chief executive, taking the reins as group chief executive.

Zoe Bowley, 49, Pizza Express’s managing director, said: “We’re expecting millions of people to flock back to restaurants as restrictions are eased, so we are delighted to be in a position to be able to recruit 1,000 new team members to help us serve customers at Pizza Express.”

Last year’s closures under the CVA, an insolvency procedure designed to allow operators to shed or redraft uneconomic leases, included the original site on Wardour Street, Soho, launched by Boizot 56 years ago.