PizzaExpress is to launch spin-off brand, ZA, next month with an all-dining offer centred around pizza slices, MCA has learnt.

The company is currently refurbishing its site in London’s Fenchurch Street for the first opening of ZA next month with a model offering food to go and dine-in. Managing director Zoe Bowley told MCA that if it proves a success the group would look at both converting existing restaurants and acquisitions for the new brand.

The move is part of a wider five-year plan to refresh the brand and estate, called Future Express. Bowley said this would see a number of initiatives trialled across the portfolio, and rolled out if successful, taking in service experience, design, food and drink and music, among others. A new look and feel will be unveiled at Langham Place in March, including a logo refresh highlighting the opening date of the inaugural PizzaExpress in Wardour Street – 1965.

Future Express also includes investment in training, with a leadership programme undertaken by senior leaders and managers in 2018 and a further initiative to be rolled out to 470+ restaurant managers over the coming year.

This month the company has started a trial in 16 restaurants where managers are helping the company evolve the service journey.

Bowley said: “About a year ago we started a big piece of work looking at how we could keep hold of our heritage – and stay true to Peter Boizot’s vision for PizzaExpress – but create a new relevance for the future.

“We spoke to thousands of customers and the idea for ZA really came from them. They said they wanted to see PizzaExpress turn up in a slightly different format alongside our dine-in experience. The message that came through was that there were occasions when our customers still wanted that PizzaExpress experience, but to-go.”

Bowley said the mandate from consumers also fitted into the wider work to tap back into founder Boizot’s original model, which included slices of pizza to go.

ZA’s menu will centre around the brand’s best-selling pizzas, sold by the slice, but also with the same toppings available in a wrap made from PizzaExpress dough. ZA will focus heavily on breakfast, with flat breads topped with bacon, eggs or spinach. Piadina and salads will form part of the lunch menu and the site will be fully licensed.

Bowley said: “We’ve been working on these plans for a long time so it’s really exciting to finally be able to talk about them and we can’t wait to get the feedback from our customers. It is testament to our commitment to invest in our estate and our people and keep PIzzaExpress relevant in a fast changing market.”