PizzaExpress, the Hony Capital-backed group, is to make its debut at a motorway service station.

The company is to open an 88-cover restaurant at the Welcome Break services on the M40 near Oxford.

The new restaurant, due to open in September, will become Pizza Express’s only franchise in the UK.

Richard Hodgson, chief executive of PizzaExpress, said: “We are always keeping our fingers on the pulse of the ever-changing wants and needs of our customers; however, the challenge with entering the motorway service network has been to find a partner where we can ensure that the food and in-restaurant quality for which we are renowned is replicated. We are confident that Welcome Break is the perfect partner to help us make this transition.”

Rod McKie, Welcome Break’s chief executive, said that the company would include a second Pizza Express at Fleet services on the M3 in Hampshire, which is being rebuilt after a fire in December.

“We think there are opportunities to do anywhere from ten to eighteen sites across our estate of twenty-seven sites,” he said, “but if it starts taking off we’ll look to have another conversation with Pizza Express and possibly do a lot more.”

Mr McKie said that the introduction of Pizza Express was part of the “massive evolution” of motorway services in recent years. “More and more people want a sit-down experience and spend a little bit more time and spend a little bit more money on the site,” he said.