Pizza chain's Living Lab sounds terrific, Unity

Campaign: The Living Lab
Client: Pizza Express
PR team: Unity
Timescale: October 2010-February 2011
Budget: £150,000

After turning 45, Pizza Express wanted to reinvent itself for the next 45 years. Unity was asked to come up with ideas ranging from design to service and food, to build on Pizza Express' heritage and give it a new twist.


- To align the brand with talent that could create the restaurant of the future

- To drive sales and make the 'new gener-ation' concept commercially successful

- To reach out to a new, younger audience and increase Pizza Express' presence on social media.

Strategy and plan

The PR team introduced Pizza Express to designer Ab Rogers and other talent including critically acclaimed 'singing baker' Liliana Tameri and DJ Nick Luscombe from Xfm.

The plan was to create a restaurant that was scientifically geared towards managing sound and showcased design and service that would get people talking. The restaurant was to be presented as a 'Living Lab' rather than a finished product, and people were invited to test and experience new ideas to help create the final product.

A blog was set up to house videos, interviews and news, to build excitement ahead of the launch of the Living Lab.

This also meant people who could not visit the restaurant could still experience it online and have their say. A story was released detailing how front-of-house staff were being taught how to flirt, to generate news interest and hooks. The partnership with Rogers saw him design 'parabolic lights' that hung above tables, creating an intimate chamber that absorbed sound. This was released to national and trade media.

Pizza Express launched an all-day menu, which provided a news hook to discuss how the founders of the restaurant originally introduced pizza to the UK. The chain's Dean Street venue in Soho was used to showcase up-and-coming jazz talent and a new playlist for the rest- aurant was put together by Luscombe.

Measurement and evaluation

The flirting customer service story was covered in every UK national news outlet and appeared four times on BBC Breakfast.

The design work was covered in an eight-minute package on BBC2 and in The Sun, as well as on tech blogs and in Elle Decoration and Creative Review.

The new menu sparked coverage in The Times, The Sun, the London Evening Standard, Restaurant Magazine and OK! Features ahead of a launch party appeared in The Sunday Telegraph and The Guardian, and the launch event was covered in The Times, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Star, as well as on numerous blogs.


In the weeks following the launch of the Living Lab restaurant, footfall to Pizza Express increased by 75 per cent. Evening sales rose by 20 per cent and overall sales by 15 per cent.

The new restaurant gained a guest satisfaction score of 93 per cent and is being rolled out nationwide. The Pizza Express Facebook page generated 38,387 fans and the Twitter feed has 3,072 followers.


Gerry Hopkinson, Co-founder, Unity

Every now and then, a client asks a question that changes everything. Pizza Express asked us such a question on a cold March day in Soho in 2010. How can we bring the future of Pizza Express to life and redefine the modern eaterie? From this simple and seemingly innocent question came one of the most exciting and far-reaching campaigns we have ever worked on.

The brief was simple. Help us find a new formula for our restaurants: new ideas, new decor, new food, new service, new everything. Oh, and do this in a way that's never been done before.

Crucially, this wasn't a brief imposed from above. It was arrived at by agency and client together, and shaped in the coming months by a collaborative and hugely talented team of artists, chefs, designers, musicians, psychologists and, of course, the general public.

It was the stuff of marketing dreams, not focused simply on promoting a product or corporate ethos, but rather playing with the brand itself and seeing what stuck.

The campaign was undoubtedly a huge success - with a national rollout under way - but the process itself wasn't easy for client or agency.

It took a brave management team to put itself up for public scrutiny and review in this manner, and the pressure was fierce. But the risk paid off and the public loved what we created together.

Pizza Express successfully retained what had made it so loved for so many years, but also reinvented itself for a new generation.


- Dinner sales rose 20 per cent and overall sales by 15 per cent.

- A guest-satisfaction score of 93 per cent.

- In the weeks following the launch, footfall rose by 75 per cent.

- More than 54,000 visits to the blog, with more than 105,000 page views.

- More than 200 pieces of coverage during a 10-week period.

- The campaign attracted 38,387 Facebook fans and 3,072 Twitter followers.

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