What is PizzaExpress’ spin-off brand ZA all about?

The pizza chain's first foray into food-to-go is targeting customers who want a quick bite to take away as well as all-day dining options.

5 April 2019

PizzaExpress recently launched its food-to-go spin off called ZA – converting its Fenchurch street restaurant to trial the all-day dining concept, which is centred around pizza slices.

Bestselling pizzas from its menu are being sold by the slice including their Za-gherita, American Hot, Padana, Pollo ad Astra, La Reine and the Vegan Giardiniera.  Other new hot items also feature at ZA, with the likes of freshly made soups sitting alongside pizza wraps, made with its signature dough recipe and filled with popular toppings from its American Hot, Padana and Pollo ad Astra pizzas.

The dough recipe comes into play elsewhere with a range of piadinas; served cold and akin to a sandwich in style, with various fillings such as tuna nicoise or artichoke and olive. Also from the fridge, salads will be served in half and full portion sizes and customers can choose from the likes of caprese; salmon and courgette; or freekeh.

There’s also a dish called Piu Leggera; freshly baked thin dough with a salad topping, available in three flavours: Prosciutto Piu, Vegan Piu and Vegan Butternut.

PizzaExpress’ dough balls also make an appearance with a new cheese flavour and a variety made with wholemeal, white and spelt flour and a range of dips like garlic butter, Salsa Verde or Pestorissa.

The new concept also offers breakfast eats, like the Luna Flat bread – freshly baked dough filled with various ingredients including ham, spinach or egg.

Learning about food-to-go

ZA, which translates to a ‘little bit of pizza’, builds on the early inspiration for PizzaExpress as founder Peter Boizot started out selling fresh, hot slices.

Zoe Bowley, UK and Ireland managing director at PizzaExpress, told Food Spark’s sister site MCA that the since opening ZA a lot has been learned about the rhythms of food-to-go, especially around new territory for the brand – breakfast.

Some products have had their labelling tweaked to focus on the description, rather than the Italian name of the pizza, and some experience is already being fed back into the wider estate, said Bowley.

The company is talking to Welcome Break about the potential to put a breakfast offer into its motorway service station sites and is also introducing allergen information via QR codes on its menu. Volumes have grown in every day part since opening  ZA, she added.

“We spoke to thousands of customers and the idea for ZA really came from them,” she said. “They said they wanted to see PizzaExpress turn up a slightly different format alongside our dine-in experience. The message that came through was that there were occasions when our customers still wanted that PizzaExpress experience, but to-go.”

Bowley said the next ZA site is likely to be an acquisition, rather than a conversion, as the company seeks to test the new opportunities the brand presents.

Socialable pizzerias and more vegan options

The ZA model is part of PizzaExpress plan to refresh the brand and estate over the next five years.

At its Oxford Circus and Leeds Arena sites, its trialling a new look and feel, themed around socialable pizzerias, with a focus on a clearly defined bar area and an open-plan kitchen – although this format won’t be possible at all sites.

“It gives people another occasion to visit PizzaExpress,” Bowley commented. “We are known as a great place to come and eat with all the family but we want to tell people that we are also about coming for a drink at the bar and nibbles. It all comes back to giving people the opportunity to socialise around food and drink, however they want to do that.”

The menu has been redesigned with a focus on starters and nibbles.

The pizza chain also wants to remain relevant to more health-conscious consumers, with its spring menu launching items like vegan rosemary and garlic flatbread with hummus; a barbacao pizza with pulled beef; and vegan mezze pizza.

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