Peter Boizot, the founder of casual dining brand PizzaExpress has died aged 89.
The hospitality entrepreneur who sparked off the trend of casual dining in Britain passed away in his home on Wednesday night, the company confirmed.
Zoe Bowley, MD at PizzaExpress, said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that Peter Boizot passed away on 5th December 2018. 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.
“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.”
A serial entrepreneur, Boizot opened the first PizzaExpress on Wardour Street, Soho, in 1965, and is credited by many for revolutionising the casual-dining experience. Today, the brand has more than 500 restaurants worldwide.
He decided to start PizzaExpress after returning from a trip to Italy and realising that he couldn’t find a slice of pizza in the UK.
Alongside Italian designer Enzo Apicella he stripped away stuffy dining and white tablecloths to make way for signature spotlights over a single flower in a vase, marble table tops and modern art by Peter Blake. In 1989 he was the first to be honoured with a Catey Award for Group Restaurateur of the Year.
After stepping down from the board of PizzaExpress in 1996, he pledged to remain involved in the firm with the honorary title of President.
Boizot has also been credited with raising £2m for the “Venice in Peril Fund” through the Pizza Veneziana he introduced in 1975, with a donation from each pizza sold going to the charity. He is also thought to have been the first to introduce Peroni to the UK.
His engagement with hospitality extended outside the chain – in 1993 he bought the Great Northern Hotel in his hometown of Peterborough. Just last month he was recognised by the Pizza, Pasta and Italian Food Association with a PAPA award for his outstanding contribution to the industry.