In a current interview focused on entrepreneurship, David Page has recalled his journey from washing dishes at Pizza Express to becoming the owner of this chain of pizza restaurant group and other famous restaurant groups like Gourmet Burger Kitchen and also Franco Manca. He may not be the first person to introduce pizza as it is in the UK but he definitely had an important role in making Pizza Express as one of the most frequently visited restaurants in the 1980s and 90s.
How did he end up with Pizza Express?
At the age of 65, the renowned entrepreneur David Page remembers clearly how he was suspected by the bank manager when he went to ask for a £2m business loan because he was wearing slippers with no socks. But the manager still lent the money to him. But it was almost hard to believe that he will become an entrepreneur. In 1969, he was expelled from Jesuit-run secondary school for being absent from school frequently.
He wanted to become a cartographer at the Ordnance Survey, UK’s mapping agency but he refused to cut his hair or wear a tie which caused into rejection. He then began his training to become a teacher and started washing dishes as a part-time in the nearest Pizza Express at South London. Working there was actually a call to him and he soon withdrew from the teaching job after he grabbed an opportunity to become a Pizza Express branch manager.
Journey till today:
In 1981 David Page had purchased the franchise to control a Pizza Express branch from Chiswick, west London. David mentions that “If you fancied learning how to become a capitalist you become a franchise.” He then went on to open many more franchises in the next decade and in the 1980s the Pizza Express was “pioneering” in the UK. He even recalls a letter sent to him by a satisfied customer saying that opening the Pizza Express branch in the town was the most exciting event in there after 1942 when the library was bombed.
He was not aware of what is a balance sheet at the time when he became the chief executive of Pizza Express and later the chairman. It grew to the extent of 300 outlets in the UK mostly and some in other countries like the US too. This pizza chain was sold in 2003 and now owned by China’s Hony Capital. There are 11 other countries where branches are opened after that.
After Pizza Express:
After he left Pizza Express, he co-founded Clapham House with food chains like Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Bombay Bicycle Club, and Tootsies. The Clapham House was then bought by South African chili chicken chain Nandos with the amount of £30m in 2010. But even after that he did not retire and looked for the next chain to flourish with.
His next target was Franco Manca, a small pizza shop that opened in 2009 at Brixton. The main attraction to him and his team was the wood-fired and sourdough pizzas of this store. He invested in this store and in 2015 his investment group called Fulham Shore bought a major stake in it. Currently, there are 40 shops of these pizza restaurants in London, each of them personally decorated by David Page himself.