Pizza Express re-design with four new concepts

The global pizza chain has refreshed its restaurant environments with four bespoke styles intended for different demographics, with the hope of losing its “worn out” look and competing with the likes of Franco Manca.


The restaurant’s in-house design team, led by head of design Rob Weller, has worked with three consultancies – Creed, Fusion and Quadrant – to completely overhaul PizzaExpress’ interiors as four new concepts. The reason for the overhaul is to liven up PizzaExpress’ interiors, which Weller says have been “out of touch” previously, and he believes the new design will allow the chain to stand up against its younger competitors.


“We’re aware of what’s going on around us, especially in urban, trendy areas such as in London,” he says. “We’re putting features in to reflect this, and we’re saying we can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with brands like Franco Manca – and that our pizzas are better.”


“Some of the restaurants’ interior environments looked old and worn out because they hadn’t been invested in,” he adds. “They had gone 10 years without a lick of paint. This was about bringing the brand back to life, and putting it back on the high street so customers can see we’re in the running again.”


PizzaExpress was founded in 1965, and currently has over 400 restaurants in the UK, and 40 more overseas in Europe, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East. The redesign follows the company’s acquisition in 2014 by Chinese firm Hony Capital for £900 million.


They have headed up the project with four new styles and interior concepts – high street, heritage, urban and retail. These have been carefully selected to suit restaurants in different areas with different demographics.


High street is what they classify as the all-rounder restaurant with a modern feel. It is aimed to satisfy everyone from families and couples to young professionals. Design features include brick and timber finishes and patterned tiling. 


Heritage restaurants are found in less busy areas within listed or classic sites, and retail natural elements and architectural features of the building. Natural materials such as oak floors, timber wall finishes and leather furniture are used, alongside “classic” chairs, a tan, red and dark green colour scheme and black and white kitchen tiles to evoke a “Victorian feel”.


Urban Restaurants are aimed at young people and classified as a ‘cooler’ alternative, situated in areas with independent competitors, where chains tend to not strive. Th design includes colourful graphics, LED lighting and ‘edgy’ light fittings, chalkboard, and a ‘vibrate’ palette. This is the uptown funk of the restaurant chains.


Retail restaurants are usually located in shopping centres and retail parks, intended to attract families.  A playful colour palette is used to attract people of all ages, and combined with a practical element with the use of natural materials. 


Some elements of the original restaurant design have been retained in the overhaul, such as PizzaExpress’ signature blue neon sign on the exterior, the open-plan kitchen with a pizza oven – which Weller says the adoption of which sparked a trend in pizza restaurants taking on this feature – marble-top tables and the use of table spotlighting to give a “moody, warm” feel.


The interior redesign is currently underway, with two restaurants being transformed nationwide per week. Some 50 refits are expected to be completed per year, with 15 new UK-based restaurants expected to be built yearly. PizzaExpress’ in-house design team has worked with the three design consultancies to develop a set of guidelines, which can be applied to the different restaurants. Weller adds that this will be updated every five years to keep the restaurant environment fresh. 


“The idea is that we don’t get back into a rut again,” he says. “We don’t want whoever takes on the business in the future to be left with an estate that is elderly and out-of-touch with the customer. We’re looking at a five-year turnaround.” The new interiors will also be accompanied by the expansion of the brand’s jazz club “live concept”, which currently exists in the chain’s London Dean Street branch, with the aim of appealing to more adults and professionals. While there is currently no need for a rebrand, says Weller, customers can expect to see redesigned in-restaurant graphics in the near future too.


Image source: Creed