Small Business Growth Stories: Pizza Pilgrims

Pizza Pilgrims

Company: Pizza Pilgrims

Founders: James and Thom Elliot

Founded: 2012

Location: Six sites around London, and a permanent pop up in east london crazy golf course Swingers

Who are Pizza Pilgrims? It all began with brothers James and Thom Elliot who, following the booming trend in street food in the city, quit their day jobs and finally took the plunge in starting their very own food business.

James had completed a cooking course in Italy and felt inspired by the backyard pizza ovens everyone was using. They saw potential in putting one of these in the back of a street food van, and set out on a quest across Italy to source a van of their own - and learn the “innermost secrets about pizza” along the way. A real pizza pilgrimage.

Back in London, the pair set up a stall at Berwick Street market with their newfound skills and worked on building relationships with bloggers and their existing contacts in events and PR; bagging them several big event and festival bookings. And through this whirlwind of mozzarella, soft dough, and word-of-mouth, Pizza Pilgrims secured their first permanent location on Dean Street, Soho.

The business is now acclaimed to be one of the must-eat places to eat pizza around the world!

In recent years, the pizza market - particularly in London - has grown to become pretty busy. Does this worry you?

"Competition is a great motivator, and who knows what the next 10 years hold, but the pizza world is a nice world - we’re mates with Homeslice, Voodoo Rays, Made of Dough, etc. We all get on really well. It’s a big celebration of pizza. If you spend the whole time looking over your shoulder at what your competitors are doing, you're going to lose track. Do what you think is best and hope that it’s better than everyone else.”

What are your plans, dreams, or ideas for the future of Pizza Pilgrims?

“I’d want 14 great pizzarias, not 12 with two bad ones. We have ambition and that grows, but there’s no rush. We’re plodding along. We now have seven restaurants, and every single one of those is managed by someone who started on the floor at Pizza Pilgrims. It is so rewarding that they’ve been through the company and are now bringing that DNA to the new site. If you grow faster than we are now, you have to be losing that.”

Any words of wisdom for a budding entrepreneur?

“Over-expanding too fast it the kryptonite of the restaurant business - you can’t build a culture that way. No one knows each other in the company and it’s a hollow business, unless you’re brilliant.”

 

Sources

Useful Naivety - Casual Dining

How Two Brothers In Their 30s Built A Booming London Pizza Chain Out of Two Credit Cards And A Van - Business Insider UK

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