Pizza Express

Taking a contrarian view

When we acquired the business in 2003, PizzaExpress was a popular brand and a market leader in the UK casual dining sector. It operated in the premium/authentic sector of the eat-in pizza/pasta market, in a variety of locations across the UK.

Under our ownership, PizzaExpress was merged with ASK Central to create a leading casual dining group with over 500 restaurants throughout the UK operating under the PizzaExpress, ASK and Zizzi brands, and serving more than 30 million customer meals each year.

  • At a glance
  • Status: Realised
  • Exit Type: IPO
  • Deal Type: Public to Private
  • Sector: Leisure
  • Exit Date: December 2006
  • Initial Investment Date: June 2003
  • Website:


Since its listing in 1993, PizzaExpress had had a record of unbroken growth. However, by 2002 public market perception of the group had turned negative due to a significant weakening in like-for-like sales and a lack of confidence in the business’ strategy.

Due to our significant experience in the leisure sector and our operational resources, we developed a thesis and assessment of the value of PizzaExpress that differed from the market.

Alongside co-investor Capricorn Ventures, we completed the public-to-private purchase of the business in June 2003.

During TDR’s investment

  • Post-acquisition we kick-started a ‘back-to-basics’ operational transformation plan, which resulted in improved customer experience and sales growth, through launching a new menu, introducing mystery shopping and optimising staff incentives
  • In 2004 we acquired ASK, one of PizzaExpress’ main competitors, to create the clear market leader in the casual dining sector
  • We worked with management to strategically reposition each of the brands to drive sales, developing a co-location strategy and executing on geographical roll-out opportunities
  • In November 2005 we led a successful IPO of Gondola Holdings (the combined group) on the London Stock Exchange
  • In December 2006 we fully realised the investment
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