|Headquarters||Uxbridge, London, UK|
PizzaExpress is a restaurant group with over 400 restaurants across the United Kingdom and 40 overseas in Europe, Pakistan, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East. It was founded in 1965 by Peter Boizot. In July 2014 the group was sold to the China-based private equity firm Hony Capital in a deal worth £900 million ($1.54 billion).
Founded in 1965 by Peter Boizot, PizzaExpress opened its first restaurant in London's Wardour Street. Inspired by a trip to Italy, Boizot brought back to London a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily.
In 1995, PizzaExpress expanded into Ireland and currently operates 14 restaurants there under the brand name Milano. The company also owns the brand name Marzano. Originally Marzano was used in countries where the brand name Pizza Express was not available, as with the use of the name Milano in Ireland, but it also exists in some territories, such as Cyprus, to differentiate between the restaurants selling primarily pizza and those offering a wider range of non-pizza meals inspired by Italy.
PizzaExpress specialises in pizza. Signature dishes include its dough balls. It now also has pasta.
Every PizzaExpress pizza is handmade, prepared in the restaurant's open kitchen.
PizzaExpress introduced the lighter pizza 'Leggera', the first pizza range on the high street that contains around 500 calories.
In 2008, PizzaExpress started a Guest Chef Series with chef Theo Randall, of Theo Randall at InterContinental London, creating exclusive dishes for its menu. Francesco Mazzei, of L'Anima, came on board in 2010 to develop a menu inspired by the cuisine of Calabria.
PizzaExpress has supported the jazz community from its early days when it opened its first jazz club in 1969 in Dean Street, London. Since then an array of artists have played from Ella Fitzgerald and Amy Winehouse, to supporting early performances by Norah Jones and Jamie Cullum.
PizzaExpress currently runs three jazz clubs in the UK, they include 10 Dean Street in Soho, The Pheasantry and Maidstone.
PizzaExpress holds an annual competition, the "Big Audition with Jamie Cullum" for singers, songwriters and musicians. The competition gives artists the chance to gain exposure and win £5000 and a residency at their Dean Street Jazz Club. In 2011, the competition was won by "Offbeat South" with runners up The Yesberger Band and Elle Watson.
Design and art
In 2002, PizzaExpress launched PizzaExpress Prospects Contemporary Art Prize with pop artist Peter Blake. Peter Blake's connection with PizzaExpress was extended when he donated 26 original pieces to the Chiswick restaurant.
PizzaExpress introduced the Pizza Veneziana in 1977 to help save Venice from sinking by donating 5p of every pizza sold to the Venice in Peril Fund. Over the years the amount donated from each pizza has increased to 25p. From 2008, donations from the Veneziana pizza go to the Veneziana Fund, where 50% is donated to the Venice in Peril Fund and 50% is given to the restoration, repair and maintenance of buildings, fixtures and fittings of buildings and works of art created before 1750. Over £2m has been raised so far from sales of the Veneziana pizza. In 1999, PizzaExpress introduced its Schools Programme, a programme where the company turns its restaurants into classrooms, educating children about fresh ingredients, how to run a local business and how to cook for themselves.
PizzaExpress launched into the retail sector with pizza, dough balls, salad dressings and pasta sauces.
In 2011, PizzaExpress launched a major rebrand of its UK restaurants, with menu changes, a black and white logo and the widespread use of stripes, both for staff uniforms and for restaurant decor.
PizzaExpress was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1993 with franchises opening across the UK. UK franchises were then bought back en masse in 1996. TDR Capital and Capricorn Associates then bought the company in 2003 turning it private again. In 2005, PizzaExpress floated on the London Stock Exchange, as part of the Gondola Holdings PLC. It was then bought by private equity group Cinven as the Gondola Group in 2007. Cinven is still the current owner. On 12 July 2014 it was announced that Chinese group Hony Capital had bought PizzaExpress for £900m.
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