Peter Boizot, the founder of one of the U.K.’s most successful and recognisable high street restaurant brands, has died at 89, reports Peterborough Telegraph.
Boizot, who opened the first Pizza Express in London in March 1965, is considered as one of the original architects of what is now referred to as “casual dining” in the U.K. The original branch, which still exists on Wardour Street in Soho, assimilated pizza, and Italian food generally, with live jazz.
The group, whose portfolio today numbers 320 restaurants in the U.K. (and 61 overseas), went public in 1993. The investment which followed resulted in branches opening in cities across the country, often notable for their occupying former banks in handsome period buildings.
Sloppy Giuseppes, dough balls, and a would-be famous creamy salad dressing marked the chain as an affordable family restaurant that served decent, reliable pizza. Pizza Express precipitated the omnipresence on Britain’s high streets of Carluccio’s, Prezzo, Strada, Jamie’s Italian, Zizzi, and Ask Italian. And, like Wagamama, has been one of only a small number of high street chain restaurant groups to weather a disastrous year and avoid multiple site closures.
Zoe Bowley, Pizza Express’ managing director released a statement, recognising Boizot’s work as launching a culinary revolution.
“In his 89 years, this remarkable entrepreneur achieved an astonishing amount, not just within the dining industry, but across music, sport, and charity as well. He launched a culinary revolution with the first Pizza Express in 1965, introducing delicious pizza and casual dining to the UK, inspired by his travels in Italy.
“His philanthropic work was renowned, raising £2million for the Venice in Peril fund and he inspired the company to continue this charitable mission. Peter’s spirit and vision to bring great pizza to the UK and beyond, and his passion for good food and good times, will live on. We will miss him dearly. Our thoughts are with his friends and family at this time.”
Daniel Young, author of Where to Eat Pizza and the essential London pizza guide, paid the following tribute.
The pizzeria empire of Peter Boizot was built with two bridges: The first from Italy to the UK; the second, from the American pizza chain gang to something better. By blending Italian interior and graphic design, Hungarian pepperoni and American jazz and pop, Boizot fashioned the formative pizza experience for several generations of British. The American Hot, The Sloppy Giuseppe and the Diavolo are not merely pizzas: They’re cultural icons.
A statement released by Peterborough United Football Club — formerly owned by Boizot paid tribute. “The Pizza Express founder was a major part of the success in the late 1990s/early 2000s when Posh secured promotion at Wembley in 2000. Everybody at the football club would like to express our condolences and deepest sympathies to the family at this very sad time,” it read.
Restaurant industry journalist, Mark Wingett described the passing as “very sad news,” adding that Boizot was “a pioneer.”
- Peter Boizot dies: Tributes to former Peterborough United owner and Pizza Express founder [Peterborough Telegraph]