Pizza Express - Corporate transformation

PizzaExpress is a restaurant group with over 400 restaurants and 7000 employees across the United Kingdom and 40 overseas in Europe, Hong Kong, India and the Middle East. It was founded in 1965 by Peter Boizot who brought back a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily and opened the first restaurant in Soho’s Wardour Street.


A few years ago, Pizza Express was undergoing major change. A new CEO, Harvey Smyth, had come in to turn around performance after a very difficult period in the company's history. This involved major operational changes, new product launches, revamping of commercial and supply chain processes, organisational restructuring a significant increase in managers’ responsibilities. In addition the culture needed to change to become more commercial, whilst renewing people’s pride and commitment to the unique values and identity of this very iconic business.


Over a period of two months all senior and middle managers attended the ‘Deape' (Developing Executives at Pizza Express) programme at Waverley Abbey House. Deape included an experiential simulation, 360 feedback, core skills in promoting change through key relationships, and the deeper learning processes described elsewhere on this website. It was supported by 1:1 coaching, follow-up skills workshops and action learning, centred the change process.


The impact of the Waverley programme was immediate and powerful. Morale was transformed amongst leaders and the restaurant teams that worked for them. Collaboration between different parts of the business improved enabling change to be implemented much more rapidly than anticipated. Like-for-like sales turned upwards within two months and climbed rapidly for over five years. Customer service and quality standards all improved, and the company's growth and profitability far exceeded the new owners' expectations.

"There's no doubt we saw deeper learning....people see how they add value, where they can start to make a real difference". 

Julie Macdonald, HR Director, Pizza Express