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Pizza Express Confronts Casual Dining Crisis With a Pizza Cutter

The U.K.’s most trusted high street pizzeria is launching a spin-off brand called Za in London’s Fenchurch Street

Pizza Express restaurant in Oxford Circus has been redesigned to “future-proof” the Italian restaurant chain
Pizza Express is trialling a new takeaway brand called Za in London’s Fenchurch Street branch
Pizza Express [Official Photo]

Pizza Express — the U.K.’s most successful and well-known pizzeria — is launching a new takeaway brand in London next month. It comes as many of the brand’s competitors in the mid-market casual dining sector, like Carluccio’s and Jamie’s Italian, have significantly scaled back their operations over the last 18 months. Pizza Express has remained almost completely unaffected.

MCA reports that the company, whose founder Peter Boizot died last year, will begin a five-year future-proofing strategy called “Future Express” that will see refurbishments, updates, and moderate innovation across the nationwide portfolio. The company currently runs 320 restaurants in the U.K. and a further 61 overseas.

It starts with the repurposing of the Pizza Express’ Fenchurch Street site, which from next month will pilot a new brand called Za — a more casual version of the pizzeria, which is open all day, serving coffee and pastries in the morning and takeaway pizza slices from lunchtime, through the afternoon, and into the evening.

Breakfast service will be a focus at Za — where flatbreads topped with eggs and bacon will be served. Piadina and salads will be offered at lunch.

Pizza Express’ managing director Zoe Bowley told MCA that if the model works then it will be transferred to existing restaurants across the company’s portfolio and be used in the acquisition of new sites. She also said that in Boizot’s early vision for the company, the idea of pizza to-go was present, so the heritage of the brand will remain undiminished as it looks to modernise and safeguard its future.

Pizza Express was founded in 1965. The first site, on Wardour Street in London’s Chinatown, still operates today. Since the summer of 2014, Pizza Express has been owned by Chinese group Hony Capital, which bought the company for £900m.