How Pizza Express’ corporate inertia made them Twitter bystanders


I’ve been travelling on trains between meetings much of today and spent more time than is healthy on Twitter. Amongst all the referendum celebration and commiseration, another story built up an astonishing momentum.

It concerned a review of Pizza Express published in the Peterborough Telegraph on 17 September 2014.

You can read the review here.

It certainly isn’t your normal restaurant review, both in content or style. And while many people admired the guileless prose, others began to take the mickey. Quite nastily.

Pretty soon it emerged that the piece was written by one Holly Aston, a 16-year-old journalism student on a short work placement with her local paper. For a short period the paper’s website took her name off the article to save her from abuse.

And then something extraordinary began to happen.

Holly found Twitter champions in professional restaurant critics like Jay Raynor and Marina O’Loughlin. Caitlin Moran began to sing her praises. And the story took off.

Because what Holly’s piece does so well is express the pleasure in a decent meal in a restaurant which some of us might actually visit. Yes, there is perhaps a little naivety in the article, but it’s a joyful, uninhibited piece full of enthusiasm and I defy anyone to read it without grinning. Or fancying a pizza afterwards.

The newspaper has Tweeted an update to say the online version of the article has been viewed 54,000 times.

And in its official feed, Peterborough College has quite rightly expressed great pride in their student.

Where was the Pizza Express in all this?


Several people, myself included, Tweeted Pizza Express to suggest this young writer, who had done more for their brand in two days than their agency has in as many months, should be awarded free pizza for life.

No response.

Eventually, several hours after the story really took off, they sent out a half-hearted message to the Peterborough Telegraph asking for the writer’s contact details so they could send her “one of our new gift cards!”. Painful.

As I type, some five hours after I first saw the flurry of interest, they’ve finally got their finger out and shared a link to her “fantastic review”.

Too little too late.

I suspect the good folk at Pizza Express have spent much of the day locked away in a big meeting room around a glass-topped table, strategising about how to best leverage the synergy in this value-added opportunity.

Or maybe they were just too boneheaded to see the potential benefit of responding and engaging. Offer the girl free pizza for life. Get her in to review the full range. Ask her advice on the right amount of tomato to put on a pizza. Anything.

Joe’s Kitchen in Covent Garden was rather quicker off the mark sending this cheeky Tweet out while the Pizza Express folk were still sharpening their pencils:

“If the girl who wrote #pizzaexpressreview wants to come review us, get in touch! It’s great seeing young people being given a platform…”

So many corporates are so poor at using social media you wonder why they are on there at all. They could learn a lot from smaller enterprises like Joe’s Kitchen, Peterborough College and the Peterborough Telegraph.

Sometimes, you’ve got to JFDI.


Pizza image copyright Shutterstock / Images.etc