Pizza Express Franchise - Do They Really Franchise?

24/11/2018 18:00 | Fast Food Franchises

pizza express franchise

Over the years, Pizza Express has become one of the country’s most popular pizza restaurants. Though it has gone through a number of transformations, it has cemented itself as the most recognisable pizza restaurant on the high street and is looking to expand operations further. Here, we take a look at whether Pizza Express offers franchise opportunities and what alternatives there are to this remarkably successful chain.

Is Pizza Express a franchise?

Though Pizza Express was once a franchise, it no longer offers franchise opportunities and has returned all those stores that were franchised operations to company ownership. Founded in 1965, by Peter Boizot, the business grew organically as a privately owned company for nearly 30 years, until it was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1993.

At this time, the business began offering qualified candidates the opportunity to open their own franchise units under the Pizza Express brand. However, in 1996, all of the existing franchise restaurants were bought back by the company. Acquired by TDR Capital in 2003, Pizza Express was once again taken private before being re-floated on the LSE in 2005. Most recently, the Hony Capital group bought the brand for approximately £900 million.

The Pizza Express business model

Pizza Express has built a large UK organisation, consisting of approximately 470 restaurants in the domestic market, as well as a growing international presence. Currently, around 100 stores are operating overseas, in markets as diverse as China, Ireland, India, and the Middle East. In some areas, the business utilises a different name, as Pizza Express was no longer available at the time of expansion. For instance, in Ireland, Pizza Express has opened its restaurants under the “Milano” brand.

Pizza Express has always maintained close links with the music industry and has often formed partnerships with prestigious musicians to promote the brand. In 1969, the original Pizza Express owners opened the Pizza Express Jazz Club in the basement of one of their restaurants. This venue played host to famous names such as Norah Jones, Amy Winehouse, and Walter Smith III.

Since then, the brand has been involved in numerous music projects and events and has invited many musicians to play in other restaurants. This long association with music and particularly the London Jazz scene has resulted in a great deal of publicity for the brand and enhanced its reputation among many music fans. It also seems as though more and more restaurants will be putting on live music and events on a regular basis to protect against the declining fortunes of the high street and to distinguish itself from the competition.

Pizza Express franchise cost

As Pizza Express no longer offers franchise investment opportunities, there is no information regarding how much it would be to set up a Pizza Express franchise. While many of its competitors, including Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo, and Carluccio’s, have struggled in recent years, Pizza Express has managed to maintain its position at the head of the sector and begin to think about ways it can develop the original owner’s legacy. Now that it’s established itself as consumers’ go-to pizza restaurant, it intends to build on its reputation, without losing track of what made the brand special in the first place.

What are the alternatives to Pizza Express?

Though there aren’t any franchising opportunities with Pizza Express, there are a whole host of companies that can offer would-be franchisees the chance to manage their own business. Here, we take a look at four of the top pizza franchises on the market today.

1. Domino’s

Domino’s is the largest and perhaps most well known pizza franchise in the UK. With more than 1,000 stores in operation, it has managed to establish itself as the most accessible and ubiquitous brand in towns and cities up and down the country. This is represented by the fact that the company served almost 90 million pizzas in 2017 and employed a remarkable 35,000 members of staff.

It typically costs franchisees around £280,000 to open a Domino’s franchise.

2. Pizza Hut

Though Pizza Hut was once the country’s leading pizza fast food restaurant, it now faces serious competition from the likes of Domino’s, Papa John’s, and Pizza Express. With their unique and instantly recognisable restaurants, they’re a common feature of on high streets and retail parks around the UK.

A UK Pizza Hut franchise requires a minimum initial investment of £130,000. However additional working capital will be required to support the business during the first few months of business.

3. Papa John’s

Papa John’s is the third and final business that constitutes the “big three” in the pizza industry. With over 5,000 restaurants operating in approximately 40 countries, they’ve developed an extensive franchise network that has allowed them to refine and improve their franchise package over a considerable amount of time. The brand is well known throughout both the UK and US and is one of the business’ key assets.

Franchisees will need to invest approximately £100,000 if they’re to open their own franchise unit, though further working capital will be required to support the business. All in all, the investment will total somewhere between £170,000 and £225,000.

4. Fireaway

Fireaway is the youngest and least known of our top four pizza franchises. However, that shouldn’t put you off, as it’s also the most affordable. All Fireaway pizzas are cooked according to authentic Italian stone-fired techniques, meaning they’re ready within 3 minutes of being placed in the oven. With an artisan approach, they emphasise choice and quality of ingredients, giving every customer the opportunity to build their pizza from scratch and top it with whatever they want.

As a new franchise, the business is offering investors the opportunity to launch their own business for an investment of just £35,000, with the monthly fee reduced to just £250 for the foreseeable future.

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