BLOOMINGTON -- At a time when many businesses are laying off employees, the founder and CEO of Pizza X in Bloomington is embracing his workforce.
Jeff Mease is the man behind the Pizza X chain, with four stores in Bloomington and one in nearby Ellettsville. About 120 people, some full-time and some part-time, work at the stores and the commissary where the pizza dough is made. All of them, except for the managers, are receiving a 75% pay raise which will be in effect until the end of June.
"We did this for a couple reasons," Mease said in a Facebook post. "First, because if our staff had been laid off, they would be getting more money sitting at home, watching Netflix (and maybe ordering pizza) than taking care of you—but that’s not an option for them."
"Second, most of our staff are at heightened risk because they serve the public. We provided all our staff bandannas and hand sanitizer almost a month ago, but even so, they are far more risk than they are on the couch at home."
And there is also some financial logic behind the raises. Mease applied for and received a $500,000 loan through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program which does not have to be paid back if his business meets certain targets. "Maintaining the same number of employees and the same total payroll. The decision is not without risk to us, but we felt it was the right thing to do for our staff and our customers."
Four of the five Pizza X stories are doing well, according to Mease. The one that isn't is closest to the IU campus, where students were sent home.
"Pizza X is particularly privileged to be able to have a chance to receive this loan and have it forgiven," said Mease. "Name your favorite restaurant or small shop, and I can almost promise you they are not able to do so."