On Wednesday, the internet was awash with news that Pete’s Pizza was going to be closed nationwide.
For the first time in years, the pizza chain had announced it would be closing its stores, and would be offering customers a free pizza for every order made in their stores.
Pete’s had been a pillar of New York City’s pizza scene for decades, but after a number of years of declining customer numbers, the chain decided to close.
Its employees had begun working extra hours and some of the restaurants were being forced to close their doors, and some stores were refusing to reopen for business.
But the internet had already become a battleground, and the closure of Pete’s is likely to be the first in a series of big losses for the pizza company.
A spokesperson for the chain told Al Jazeera the decision to close Pete’s was “the right one”.
“We are making the hard decision to lay off approximately 200 people at this time,” the spokesperson said.
“We will be reopening tomorrow, October 30, in our current capacity.”
But the news that the pizza was being shut down for good wasn’t exactly a surprise to many in New York.
Many of the people who work at the restaurant have been waiting years for Pete’s to reopen, and have seen it close more times than they can count.
In an email to Al Jazeera, Pete’s said it was working to “make sure all of the impacted customers receive the service they deserve”.
It said that after an extended discussion with staff, it had decided to keep its doors open for as long as it could “as a way of honoring the people we have lost to the chain’s closure”.
The decision to cut back on its service also means that the Pizza Hut chain, which has a much larger number of restaurants in the city, will likely not be able to offer Pete’s customers a similar free pizza.
Pete is not the only restaurant to be forced to shut down in the wake of the closure, with Subway closing its restaurants and many smaller chains having been forced to do the same.
Many small restaurants have already begun offering customers free food in the hopes that they will be able keep their jobs.
Many other pizza chains have been forced by the closures to cut hours or lay off employees.
In response, pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, and Pizza Express have announced that they would be providing employees with the option to work from home for the next 24 hours.
Some of the workers who are offering this option are also offering free pizza to anyone who makes a reservation.
“It’s a very important moment for everyone, especially for our restaurant workers,” said Pete’s CEO, Michael Zuccoli.
“As long as we are able to continue our mission to deliver great customer experiences, we will be here to keep the customers coming.”
The closure of all the restaurants is likely not the last of Pete, though.
A number of Pete and Pizza Pizza restaurants in New Jersey are set to close in the coming weeks, and Pete is already thinking about how to find a replacement.
“I’m just hoping we can find a place that’s going to stay open,” Zuccolis said.
The pizza chain is currently offering a free food option to anyone willing to work for a minimum of two hours a day, but Zuccolini said he’s already contacted potential restaurant owners to find out if they would like to accept the offer.
“If you are interested in participating, you can call us at 855-444-4100 to arrange for a free meal,” Zucci said.
Pete has been closed for three years, and Zuccoli has not seen a single customer since Pete’s closed.
“People are just trying to figure out how to get back on their feet, and we just need to find ways to keep people employed,” Zucoli said.