Pizza Express’ open prep areas and Sveba Dahlen ovens are a fixture in every town and city these days. Or at least it feels that way, such has been the pronounced growth of a restaurant group that belonged to the Gondola Holdings empire until Chinese investors Hony Capital paid a cool £900m to get its hands on the business last summer. The chain, which now numbers more than 430 sites in the UK, very much embodies what the British casual dining sector is all about, although it’s important to remember that this is not some young upstart: the first Pizza Express opened in Soho way back in 1965.
Clearly the last decade has propelled it to levels it could only have dreamed of back in the swinging sixties, although there is absolutely no danger of complacency creeping in given that it announced plans to target another 200 restaurant openings in the UK and a further 200 across key growth markets when the Hony deal was concluded. The man spearheading this growth is CEO Richard Hodgson, who has just celebrated his second year in the hot-seat. He is well aware that success boils down to delivering exceptional food at good value. In its kitchens there are no fryers, no microwaves, just an oven — and everything on the menu must work around that. Even its fudge cake is baked on site in the oven as it warms up every morning.
Richard has a more than capable operations and procurement team behind him, and they’ve certainly ensured the chain’s catering equipment needs in the UK are taken care of as it scales. Pizza Express has been working with Bidvest Catering Equipment for the past five years and recently concluded a deal worth £4.5m that will ensure it is supplied with the all kitchen kit it needs until 2018. Bidvest will supply cooking appliances, back-of-house equipment, barware and uniforms to the group’s UK stores, as well as to China. “Asia is a key part of our future growth strategy and Hony’s expertise in this region will be invaluable,” stated Richard when the takeover was announced. “We are looking forward to working with them on this as well as our ambitious UK growth plans.”
“Asia is a key part of our strategy. We are looking forward to working with them on this as well as our ambitious UK growth plans”