Saturday, 22 August 2009

I f*cking hate Pizza Express

I f*cking hate Pizza Express. You may have already figured that out from the title. Most of my friends or people I tell don't get it and I think they're insane. It's insipid, their food is bland, really expensive, the portions are tiny, and they're overtaking everything at a Starbucks speed (Which I don't like that much but as much as I hate Pizza Express).

It's not that surprising given their size they can keep throwing 241 vouchers at all the affiliate sites possible and imaginable so people keep coming. Incentives and e-marketing 101. But then again, nothing wrong with that I guess.

Apart from the fact that I've been in a bit of an angry mood lately, I've just learned Pizza Express launched a ridiculous new product lately and it's as good an opportunity as any to share my distaste for the brand. I'm sure the 241 afficionados will be soon be all over it like a rash: The leggera pizza (it means light in Italian, call it a diet pizza). A pizza with a hole in the middle and salad in the hole. So like half a pizza.

Eat a salad if you're worrying about your diet. The worst thing is this kind of minute segmentation will probably work; specially created for the diet conscious who want to look good in front of their friends, feel good about themselves and can't make up their minds on whether to have a pizza or a salad. Now they can have both. I'm so relieved.

Curious, I checked the menu found out a classic Margherita costs £5.90. A light Margherita costs £7.95. I guess the fresh tomatoes in the latter are perhaps more expensive..? Still outrageous. Otherwise, the rest of their pizzas cost a fortune, ridiculousy overpriced.

Their ice cream isn't very good either. I don't understand how so many people love it. Apparently they have over 13,000 fans on their Facebook page. But I'm not one for random hate and I'm glad a good reason for you to boycott Pizza Express if you're up for it. Check out this Facebook group about Pizza Express employees.

Now there are problems with managing tips for the whole restaurant industry but still: Pizza Express takes 8% from whatever the service charge is for admin fees. Service charge in the UK is not obligatory, customers don't have to pay it, but usually do with the understanding that this money is tips for the staff. That's rarely the case and here a good example of Pizza Express taking money from their low paid employees.

Pizza Express employees protested against this in 2007 and a restaurant manager who supported the employees claims got sacked.

I'm also glad I found a few other people who don't like it, such as Pete Cashmore from 'Une Annee sans Pizza', the blog of a pizza lover who didn't eat any for a whole year.

And it's not just Pizza Express, it's every single standardised eatery and baverage chains. All the same lame decorations, overpriced offering, same bland flavours, paint by numbers school of cooking, etc. It's all killing the small restaurants and originality.

To finish on a positive note, because I'm not all hatred, I absolutely love good pizza. For some really good pizza and Italian food check out these places in London:

  • Bar Italia in Soho, a London institution open since 1949. If you haven't tried their pizzas yet, have one. They're not the best in the world but very good and beat a Pizza Express any time.
  • Ripe Tomato, close to Portobello Road.
  • Centonove, on Westbourne Park Road.
What are your favourite pizza places? I'd love to know.

Rant done. One day I may talk about Fire & Stone, possibly the only pizza place I hate more than Pizza Express ;) Have a great weekend.

PS: You probably noticed, but no link love for Pizza Express.

May 2015 update: For some reason this post seems to be garnering some comments in recent months so I'll reiterate a comment I wrote below. Feedback from a few employees are saying the service charge is split up fairly, if it's the case I'm glad for the employees. Otherwise it's a pretty old post, I don't hold passionate opinions about Pizza Express one way or another aside from appreciating the success from a business perspective perhaps. I don't eat there, nor do I particularly think about it unless someone comments here.


Siany said...

I hate the service thing. Staff should get tips. No question.

pristyles said...

I can't say I share your hatred of Pizza Express, but it is out of order that they take a cut of service charge. There should be more naming and shaming of the companies who do this...

On the subject of really good pizza: there is no other!

Anonymous said...

They are now about to take 30% + the previous 8% from the waiting staff in the new concept branches

Anonymous said...

The extra 30% that is taken is now shared amongst kitchen staff and KP's, which seems fair enough.

Although the 8% admin fee is disgraceful...

Anonymous said...

No, that is not fair as chefs and kp's have a much higher wage than the waiters, who are on minimum wage. Knowing that 99% of lunches there is not a kp and the waiter has then to do both his AND the kp's job for the same wage AND still has to give 30% of the tips whether the kp is there or not. Soon they'll have to run the kitchen too!!! Pizza express is disgusting and not looking after half their workforce. And waiters still have to put on a brave and happy face, even told to flirt with the customers!!!

Anonymous said...

No, the chefs are also on minimum wage and the waiters are the highest paid people there as they are taking mostly cash tips, which can be up to 200 quid a day on the weekend. Trust me, they earn more than the average junior lawyer. I worked there for 5 years in the kitchen and also in a hostess job. Kitchen staff, cleaners and hostesses are only making 7 pound per hour including their tips. Waiters in london tripple their minimum wage easily on cash tips.

Anonymous said...

cleaners only make 6.50 per hour i know i am one and im having to do 60 hours plus just to make a decent wage to justify the shit way ur treat by other staff and kitchen staff kitchen staff are on more there on 7.50 per hour and waiters/waitresses are on 6.70 per hour as of 2014 so cleaneres do cleaning all the store in morngin wash all toilets clean everywhere front and back of house then wash all pots and usually last out wwith managers waiting generally for pot wash its not right they shud get and unsociable hours bonus or summti to make up for it like most other jobs ive done has paid staff.

Anonymous said...

As a PE employee I can tell you all that waiters aren't on minimum wage and we haven't been for a couple years now, the 30% goes to other front of house staff that would otherwise not get tips, door hosts, dessert makers, runners, etc, while the administration charge is still deplorable, you guys are missing the bigger picture.

Willem van der Horst said...

It's a pretty old post by now, maybe it has changed / improved. All the better for the staff if it's correct. I'm still not a fan, I just don't go there.

Anonymous said...

As a PE employee, waitresses get 70% of card tip and back of house (cleaners, runners, chefs) get 30. it's fair, but still underpaid IMO