When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one of the first things &pizza CEO Michael Lastoria did was implement policies to directly help out their “tribe members,” from extended paid sick leave and paychecks for quarantining team members, to offering more unique benefits like $5 Lyft rides so their employees could avoid public transportation.
This is the “people-first” approach Lastoria and his team have taken throughout the pandemic and since the inception of the digital technology-focused, Washington, D.C.-based pizza chain.
“From its earliest days, &pizza has championed unity through people and pizza. And once COVID-19 hit, we knew this vision was being called to real action,” Lastoria told Nation’s Restaurant News.
&pizza was also one of the first major restaurant brands to offer employees paid time off for activism and voting, and went one step further to completely close stores on Election Day. They also recently committed to raising their minimum wage to at least $15 an hour by 2022.
Lastoria’s people-first mentality also extends to the communities where restaurants operate. Early on in the pandemic, the brand implemented the Hero Pies program, donating 100,000 pizzas to frontline workers across the East Coast. The chain also partnered with nonprofit and activist organizations like World Central Kitchen and Uber Pizza to the Polls.
Lastoria’s activist approach to operations extended to their involvement and support of the Black Lives Matter movement. &pizza partnered with local Washington, D.C. muralists to commission Black Lives Matter-centric artwork to adorn stores that had to be boarded up during the protests of 2020.
But &pizza is not just focused on company culture: Lastoria has also zeroed in on the chain’s expansion to new markets, with plans to open 20 locations through the beginning of 2021.
“We're proud of our continued excellence in operations and explosive growth in digital transactions during an exceptionally challenging environment, resulting in ongoing same-store sales growth in suburban markets and a larger footprint to impact more people with more pizza,” Lastoria said.
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