COVID-19: Pizza Express moves to hire 1,000 staff (after cutting 2,400 jobs last year)

Pizza Express has said it is to recruit 1,000 new workers as its reopening gathers pace following a year of coronavirus disruption that forced it to permanently close dozens of restaurants.

The casual dining chain, which cut 2,400 jobs last year, has already reopened 118 sites in line with the easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures that allow outdoor seating.

It said those restaurants had been “busy” and 24 more would open for al-fresco dining next week in England.

Pizza Express said it was hiring in anticipation of restrictions on trade being removed completely in June, allowing meals to be eaten inside.

It added that 300 of the new roles would be created under the government’s Kickstart initiative to help young people find work.

Managing director Zoe Bowley 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 a thousand new team members
to help us serve customers at Pizza Express.”

Last year proved catastrophic for Pizza Express and its rivals – with big names including Carluccio’s and the owner of Café Rouge, the Casual Dining Group, collapsing.

Others were even forced to seek new owners as customers were periodically barred from their doors as part of the effort to protect public health.

While many benefited from the chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme last summer, Pizza Express was forced into a restructuring last September that led to the closure of 73 sites and 1,100 job losses.

Just a month later, it blamed a slump in trading for a further 1,300 job cuts.

Its remaining workforce of around 7,700 people has been on furlough through the latest lockdown.

Ms Bowley added: “Our restaurants have been the beating heart of our local communities and neighbourhoods for decades.

“As well as helping locals to get together with friends and family, we support 360 local economies across the UK as an employer for anyone looking for a fun, flexible and rewarding career.

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“Our pizzerias are a great place to work, and our teams love welcoming new colleagues.

“After all the challenges and uncertainties of the last year, we’re very excited to be open and recruiting again.”

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