HospitalityProfessional Comment

What Pizza Express’ Debts Can Teach Businesses About Hospitality Marketing

Pizza Express fans would have been devastated to hear their most recent announcement; despite the love we have for their dough balls, it seems that Pizza Express are in a whopping £1.1bn debt pile.

It’s been suggested that Pizza Express’ struggles reflect the changing preferences of UK consumers; despite it’s great taste, the iconic Sloppy Giuseppe is no longer making the cut… millennials for instance have become increasingly passionate about supporting independent and local businesses, most notably including restaurants that have a particularly ‘Instagram-able’ edge. From Pizza East to Franco Manca and Moto Pizza, they look for a unique twist, whilst comparing Pizza Express to the ‘McDonalds of the pizza world’… which isn’t great.

Meanwhile, new-age food delivery services like UberEats and Deliveroo have truly transformed the way we think about food. Steering customers towards the comfort of their own homes, it seems the market is becoming engulfed by trendy alternatives and the ease of mobile delivery.

There’s a lot to be learned from Pizza Express’ mounting debts, especially by hospitality businesses. Using this insight to hone your own marketing strategy would be an undeniable advantage; from adjusting your social media approach to tailoring PR campaigns, it seems we need to reconsider how we can best approach consumers.

To help you understand the lessons we ought to learn from this saddening development, VB Hospitality’s Marketing Manager, Amy Spooner, outlines the most important things to consider:

1. Constantly refresh your marketing strategy.

For any business to thrive, it needs to consistently monitor and refresh it’s marketing strategy. Never settle for a plan that’s working ‘just fine’, because in time it’s likely this mediocre success will be a significant disadvantage… Evaluate everything from your PR processes to your company’s website efficiency, blog posts, email marketing techniques and more. All of these components are vital ingredients within any successful marketing campaign.

If you find that something’s working particularly well, run with it! If anything, consider how you can maximise this success, planting the technique in all of your digital marketing beds. For example, if you find that one particular dish is sparking better engagement on Instagram, then it’d be worth centering a blog post around this meal too. Meanwhile, if a press angle has been taken up by several journalists, then be sure to incorporate this topic into your blog and social media posts. Key word consistency will greatly enhance your SEO!

Meanwhile, if you’ve found that something isn’t quite working, for example if, as a restaurant, Twitter isn’t generating much engagement, then consider how your time can be better used. Invest more heavily in your Instagram content, prioritising the channels your customers prefer.

2. Use social media to your advantage.

Social media has become an essential tool for every business; with young peoples’ entire lives largely centered around what they see online, it’s important for your business to have a strong presence. Consider which platforms would best compliment your hospitality business and spend time growing your following.

By conducting ‘following sprees’ and posting daily, your content will reach thousands of possible customers. Social media influencers are also incredibly influential, so consider having them visit you, trying your goods! These reviews will be trusted by their dedicated followers, making them a review source worth investing in. Pizza Express rarely collaborate with social media influencers, especially in comparison to other social media-savvy chains, including Byron and yes, even McDonalds! After collaborating with Love Island’s Chris Hughes, they made it clear they were updating their strategies.

3. Yes, it’s important what your competitors are doing!

The hospitality industry is rife with competition; the market is incredibly over-saturated meaning it can be difficult to set yourself apart from other hospitality businesses. Whilst you might not want to spend time tracking the progress of competitors, instead focusing on your own strategies, it is important to know what they’re doing. Pizza Express clearly haven’t tapped in to the successful moves of their closest competitors in many ways, for example we’re yet to hear of a ‘bottomless brunch’ announcement or ‘pizza by the slice’ offer, something millennials are going crazy for! A move that arguably contributed to their declining profits.

4. Engage with your target audience.

To make a lasting impression with your customers and potential customers alike, it’s important that you’re engaging. From the outset people will know that you value and listen to your guests; any hospitality business with a reliable approach to customer service will be more inclined to find success – people prioritise their food and want to know that they’re investing in a considerate, high-quality service. Pizza Express don’t even have an Instagram account, meaning they’re not actively engaging through the platform at all. In an industry that relies heavily on the appeal of ‘Instagram-able’ dining experiences, it’s clear where they’re falling short.

5. Mix up your menu.

Pizza Express have several iconic dishes that customers continue to enjoy; as aforementioned, their dough balls and Sloppy Giuseppe pizzas are, quite frankly, mouth-watering. However, with the likes of Franco Manca offering interesting new flavours on a regular basis and ‘pizza by the slice’ restaurants like Chelmsford’s Moto Pizza allowing customers to try a limitless number of new flavours, their predictable menu will have contributed to their downfall. As a hospitality business, exciting menu announcements should have a central position within your marketing strategy. Something you can mention in your blogs and on social media, this’ll incentivise new customers to try all that you have to offer!

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