Don’t call it a niche—Jane Treasure, food and beverage director at the London-based PizzaExpress, asserts that vegan customers and menu items take a serious place at the table for its business, which has grown to more than 360 locations in the U.K. and Ireland.
Accordingly, the chain has prioritized vegan menu items. Here are some highlights:
- The Vegan Nourish Bowl includes mixed grains with lemon and herbs, garlic Tenderstem broccoli, roasted peppers, baby spinach, rocket, cucumber, artichokes, and hummus with balsamic dressing.
- For those seeking comfort food in pasta form, the Peperonata dish serves up penne pasta baked in a garlic and tomato sauce with a generous double pinch of chili flakes and roasted mixed peppers, finished with arugula and fresh parsley.
- Vegan Dough Balls take a twist on one of its popular appetizers, but without butter. Utilizing instead a new vegan garlic and parsley spread, they’re every bit as tasty as the original garlic butter Dough Balls. Customers can also choose the flavorful Chimichurri Dough Balls, which are dough balls tossed in a zingy, herbaceous chimichurri sauce made with parsley, garlic, olive oil and a pinch of chili, with extra sauce for dipping. For the extra-hungry, Vegan Dough Balls Doppio provides a double helping, with vegan garlic and parsley spread, hummus and Italian tomato dip. Or, for dessert, Snowball Dough Balls are dusted with cinnamon and sugar, served with fruit coulis dip.
- The Vegan ad Astra specialty pie features Quorn meat alternative, plus sweet red peppers, Cajun spice, red onion, tomato, garlic oil and vegan mozzarella alternative.
- The Vegan Forza is named after the Italian word for strong, so it’s big on flavor and full of color. The pizza includes smoky chili Quorn with mixed peppers, tomato, hot and sweet chili peppers, garlic oil, vegan mozzarella alternative, chili oil and parsley.
PizzaExpress’ Vegan Approach
Treasure recently sat down with PizzaVegan to discuss why the brand embraces vegan customers—and continues to innovate with new menu items that are thoughtful, hearty and delicious. Here are her thoughts on the brand’s plant-based approach:
When did you start offering vegan items, and why is it important for you to offer plant-based/vegan items and cater to vegans?
Treasure: Vegan and vegetarian offerings have always been part of PizzaExpress’ heritage and menu—it is part of who we are. Our founder, Peter Boizot, was a pescatarian, so a menu that caters to all tastes is key to us and remains integral to what we do.
What remains important to us is that everyone can enjoy the PizzaExpress experience, including through our vast vegan menu, which we launched in 2018. It includes our vegan dough balls and American Jack pizza (which is made with smoky jackfruit “pepperoni”). Our most popular and biggest selling pizza is the Vegan Margherita.
How did you approach the design of the vegan menu at PizzaExpress?
Treasure: We offer alternatives for vegan choices, such as our vegan mozzarella, which can be swapped on any pizza, plus Quorn pizza topping, vegan mezze and the Vegan Nourish Bowl. These dishes are all popular, as well as our Vegan Giardiniera Pizza (which has had the most variations through time, with mushrooms and artichokes) and the Sloppy Vegan (the vegan version of the popular Sloppy Giuseppe). It goes without saying that our vegan dough balls (with vegan butter) are also very popular, and our garlic bread with vegan mozzarella is a good mover for us.
What has been the customer reaction to your vegan offerings in general?
Treasure: These items are hugely popular overall. The vegan menu remains as important to us as our other menus—we don’t consider this to be a sub-category!