Pizza Express is set for a stock market return just two years after it was taken private, it was announced today.
Owner Gondola – which also includes the Ask and Zizzi restaurant chains - named David Ross, one of the co-founders of Carphone Warehouse, as its chairman.
It is thought the planned flotation would give the firm a market value of around £800m (€1.2bn) to £900m (€1.3bn).
Gondola has a total of almost 500 restaurants including 310 Pizza Express outlets and 108 Ask sites. It employs around 10,000 staff and serves some 30 million meals a year.
Pizza Express's sister company Milano operates six outlets in Ireland - three in Dublin and one each on Cork, Limerick and Galway.
The planned stock market debut will raise cash to pay off its debt and will see the firm step up its expansion. Gondola plans to open 20 to 25 new restaurants across its different brands in the current financial year and 25 to 30 a year from then onwards.
A number of staff, including restaurant managers, are expected to be given shares in the company, although it is not known how many they may receive. None of the existing shareholders plan to sell any shares as part of the flotation.
Trading in central London improved since the start of September and same-store sales across the group increased by 3.2% in the 16 weeks to October 16, compared with the same period last year.
Mr Ross said: “We see significant opportunities for further roll-out of our brands. We look forward with confidence to our future as a UK publicly-quoted company.”
Pizza Express was taken private for £278m (€411m) just two years ago by investment firms TDR Capital and Capricorn Ventures, who later bought Ask and Zizzi.
The group traces its roots back to 1948 when founder Peter Boizot tasted his first pizza in Florence and decided to recreate the experience in London.
The first Pizza Express oven was brought from Rome and was set up in the company’s first restaurant in the capital’s Soho area.
Ask opened its first restaurant in 1993 and then set up Zizzi in 1999, offering a more upmarket range of pasta and pizzas.