Led by design specialist Ab Rogers, the testing-ground site pulls together numerous ideas from a series of consultants including acoustician Sergio Luzzi, theatre director Karl James, Mumsnet co-founder Carrie Longton and DJ Nick Luscombe.
The most successful ideas will start to be rolled out to the 376-strong estate from early 2011.
The circular banquette tables have a pod-like feel with their own roof, which creates an acoustic and lighting bubble. The aim is, “to create a space that feeds conversation”, according to Rogers, enhancing privacy and managing sound in the restaurant.
Some even boast their own iPod docks, as well as dimmer switches and ‘service’ buttons.
Pizza Express was one of the first mainstream operators to introduce an open kitchen, but it is now putting the pizzailos [pizza makers] centre stage, with the raised kitchen visible throughout the restaurant. From here, the new all-day menu will be trialed, with the street-kiosk selling direct to the public.
Longton’s influence can be seen in the children’s activity area which features ‘stealth learning’ video games, kids’ books and a drawing
table – all of which can be hidden during evening service.
From a recruitment and service perspective, HR director Julie MacDonald has worked with Karl James to break free of the inevitable standardisation that restricts individuality in a large chain.
They are encouraging staff to judge the needs of each table more individually and interact with them accordingly, backed by what MacDonald terms a “brilliantly exciting” new recruitment model.
Finally, the overall colour scheme, uniforms, tables, chairs and tableware has been updated making it brighter and lighter than the chain’s previous incarnations.