The boss of Pizza Express in the UK has denied rumours that it will be the next Italian chain to shutter restaurants amid the casual dining crisis.
Speaking to the Press Association, managing director Zoe Bowley said there were currently no plans to shrink the estate of pizzerias – but the company is looking at other ways to reduce costs.
“In 54 years, we’ve weathered many storms, through the depths of recessions,” she said.
“Certainly, the cost pressures that we’ve seen in the last couple of years have been really tough. I think what it forces you to do is appraise your business model and understand how you can take appropriate costs out.”
However, she did not rule out seeking rent reductions on a case by case basis.
Pizza Express had been touted as the next on the list of high street dining casualties, after peers Prezzo, Jamie’s Italian and Carluccio’s all shuttered sites last year.
The company’s 2017 accounts revealed it had debts of over £1 billion, though a hefty chunk of this is owed to its Chinese parent company Hony.
Ms Bowley said the chain will focus on “quality, not quantity” as it expands. Five new openings are planned for this year, while existing branches will be in line for a refurbishment as the brand rolls out a new design including a bigger bar.
The new format debuted at the Langham Place branch in London last month.
Meanwhile, the company is also exploring new revenue streams such as Za, its takeaway pizza-by-the-slice concept, which opened in London in March.
Delivery has also added a new area of development. Ms Bowley said Pizza Express had now “embraced” delivery through its partnership with Deliveroo, after years of only offering click and collect.
She said: “It’s really important it turns up in the right way, so we’re innovating around packaging around our product.
“We just digitally integrated so that for the teams when the orders come in, it goes straight into our system. And we are building good relationships at a local level with the drivers.”