Pizza Pilgrims : In Crust We Trust

Poppi BurkeLucy Pilgrim
Poppi Burke - Project Manager Lucy Pilgrim - Deputy Head of Editorial
At A Glance
  • Pizza Pilgrims has been famed for showcasing the best pizzas from Naples, having celebrated 10 years of authentic, pillow-crusted Neapolitan pizzas in the summer of 2023.
  • Today, the expertise of Pizza Pilgrims has expanded to 22 pizzerias across the United Kingdom, including sites in London, Brighton, Cambridge, Nottingham, and Leeds.
  • Pizza Pilgrims’ ambitious targets include creating 300 jobs, taking the total headcount to 660, as well as achieving a growth revenue of 22 percent year-on-year.
  • “We strive to own the pizza agenda through innovation and never settling for the norm,” says Gavin Smith, Managing Director, Pizza Pilgrims.

Nestled in the heart of the UK’s culinary scene, Pizza Pilgrims elevates well-loved Neapolitan pizza to a new level, incorporating traditional Italian flavours with a distinct, artisanal personality. Managing Director, Gavin Smith, dishes up the company’s tantalising story.

IN CRUST WE TRUST

Pizza Pilgrims was born from a simple yet deep passion for mouth-watering, authentic pizza, which led to a life-changing culinary journey. 

The company’s founders, brothers Thom and James Elliot, strived to bring traditional, unbelievably delicious Neapolitan pizza to the streets of the UK. 

“Like most good ideas, Pizza Pilgrims started in a pub in 2011. Street food was just taking off and London was being treated to new and delicious cuisine, served curbside.” opens Managing Director, Gavin Smith

Following their dreams, Thom and James flew to the toe-end of Italy to collect a three-wheeled Piaggio Ape van and completed the long drive of 4,500 kilometres back to London. 

“They stopped off along the way at all the best pizza destinations. The pilgrimage, as it became known, was born,” Smith excites. 

When visiting Italy’s finest pizzerias and producers during the original pizza pilgrimage in 2012, Thom and James discovered what would become the foundation of the company: to follow the simple Italian belief that the best ingredients are essential for making the best pizza. 

After discovering and learning all they could about the true art of pizza making, the brothers began serving the beloved food at London’s famed Berwick Street market, before launching the first permanent Pizza Pilgrims pizzeria in Soho in 2013. 

Today, the company’s expertise has been expanded to 22 pizzerias across the country, including sites in London, Brighton, Cambridge, Nottingham, and Leeds.

A PIZZA AGENDA

Pizza Pilgrims has been famed for showcasing the best pizzas from Naples, having celebrated 10 years of authentic, pillow-crusted Neapolitan pizzas in the summer of 2023. 

Many of the company’s key ingredients are imported directly from Italy, from the best ‘00’ grade pizza flour Naples has to offer from the famous Caputo mill to the exclusively Italian tomatoes used in the sauce, alongside mozzarella originating from just outside the city. 

“It’s important to note that we never look to be too serious or profess to be ‘the best’; that is for our guests to decide. 

“Internally, we strive to own the pizza agenda through innovation of the menu and introducing new and exciting ingredients. This extends outside of our food list to the uniquity of each location, as every pizzeria has its own distinct personality inspired by a different time, place, or moment we’ve had in Naples,” enthuses Smith. 

As such, the company’s menu is a mix of traditional pizzas for any consumer purists, as well as unexpected twists on classic Italian dishes for more adventurous guests. 

Some pizza favourites include the Margherita Extra-Extra, which features datterini tomatoes, creamy burrata, and fresh pesto, as well as the Americana, topped with hotdogs and fries, a surprising Neapolitan favourite. 

Additionally, Pizza Pilgrims plays outside of tradition with pizzas such as the Double Pepperoni and Spicy Honey, or the Carbonara with roasted guanciale bacon, pecorino cheese, and egg yolk, finished with a few strands of fresh al dente pasta.   

“The menu also features exclusive pizzas each month, which are either lovingly curated by the in-house team or created in collaboration with special guests.”

“We strive to own the pizza agenda through innovation and never settling for the norm”

Gavin Smith, Managing Director, Pizza Pilgrims

THIS IS HOW WE DOUGH IT

As 2024 is in full swing, Pizza Pilgrims continues to search for ways to keep its staff and guests excited. 

It has a number of exciting openings in the pipeline, including Euston train station. The company is also planning a pizzeria opening in Cardiff in the summer of 2024 where it has posted over 10,000 pizzas via its frying pan pizza kit business ‘Pizza in the Post’, which can be ordered and made in the comfort of your own home.  

“This growth will be supported by refurbishing our existing pizzerias in Carnaby Street, Canary Wharf, and London Bridge in the capital. We are investing significantly into our amenities and brand,” Smith outlines.  

January of this year also saw the company collaborate with a leading pizzeria in Los Angeles, US, and it has since opened up conversations with incredible restaurants in New York and New Haven, Connecticut. 

This will facilitate the amplification of the Pizza Pilgrims brand to new audiences, whilst developing guest pizzas that have a real story with new and interesting flavours, techniques, and styles.

CULTIVATING COMPANY CULTURE

Since its inception, Pizza Pilgrims has grown organically, which has allowed the business to offer progressive career opportunities to its industry-leading team.  

One of its founding goals was to build a team, brand, and company that it is proud of and is robust. Therefore, it has a core Pizza Base (head office) team in Carnaby Steet who spend significant time looking after the pizzeria teams and remain hands-on.   

Pizza Pilgrims also seeks consistent products and experiences across the entire organisation.  

“Having a very experienced leadership and support team means that I have the highest level of confidence that we can grow at pace and protect our culture and quality,” shares Smith.  

With continuously increasing success, Pizza Pilgrims has invested ahead of the curve with resources to protect and enhance the company culture, whilst building robust systems and processes to keep it successful.    

The Pizza Pilgrims team are a collective of talented, fun, and ambitious people. In return, the company offers freedom within a framework; this has cultivated trust and curiosity throughout the business, which are incredibly important ingredients for the long-term stability and growth of the brand.   

For example, the company’s vision is to make people happier, one pizza at a time.  

“In the pizzerias, we empower our team members to delight guests. This could be as simple as a recommendation or as thoughtful as giving away a pizza, a cocktail or even a Pizza in the Post kit. We feel this elevates the guest experience and encourages loyalty,” Smith smiles.

“We empower our team members to delight guests. this could be as simple as a recommendation or as thoughtful as giving away a pizza, a cocktail, or even a pizza in the post kit. We feel this elevates the guest experience and encourages loyalty”

Gavin Smith, Managing Director, Pizza Pilgrims

PLANET PILGRIMS

Pizza Pilgrims has recently received B Corp accreditation, celebrating the company’s vast range of environmental, social, and governance practices.  

The journey to accreditation, which has been two years in the making, has encouraged the company to make small changes and dedicate its time to ensuring it operates efficiently and sustainably, as manifested in the Planet Pilgrims initiative.  

“We have embedded fundamental changes to the business to ensure we’re always doing the right thing! 10 years on, we’re even more laser-focused on treating our team, planet, and community the right way,” highlights Smith.   

To achieve B Corp certification, Pizza Pilgrims had to display verified performance, accountability, and transparency, on factors such as employee pay and benefits; engagement with its community; positive practices in the supply chain; and a long-term commitment to reduce its environmental impact.  

As this journey continues, the company hopes to protect and enhance its B Corp status and work with local businesses to sustain its signature authentic taste. Pizza Pilgrims’ other ambitious targets include creating 300 jobs, taking the total headcount to 660, as well as achieving a growth revenue of 22 percent year-on-year.  

“We’re ambitious, humble, and understand that we need to grow with soul and care,” closes Smith.

PIZZA PILGRIMS PARTNER

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By Poppi Burke Project Manager
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Poppi Burke sources the collaborations with business leaders, brands, and C-suite executives that feature in Food & Beverage Outlook Magazine. Poppi is actively seeking collaborations for future editions.
By Lucy Pilgrim Deputy Head of Editorial
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Lucy Pilgrim is an in-house writer for Food & Beverage Outlook Magazine, where she is responsible for interviewing corporate executives and crafting original features for the magazine, corporate brochures, and the digital platform.