Many still remember Nirula’s as the place where they had their first pizza – it being the country’s oldest fast food chain, founded in 1977. Then came Domino’s and Pizza Hut. And now, two more names have joined the pizza squad in India – Papa John’s and Pizza Express.
Papa John’s was launched in 1983 when “Papa” John Schnatter sold his 1971 Z28 Camaro to purchase a $1600 worth of used pizza paraphernalia, and began selling pizzas out of a broom closet in the back of his father’s tavern. But the success couldn’t be hemmed in, and he soon moved out of the converted closet to a new place.
In India, the company first set up shop in December 2013 by purchasing Om Pizza, the master franchise of the brand, and later acquiring Pizza Corner in November 2014. All Pizza Corner outlets were re-branded, all outlets in North India were shut, and South and West India became its new diggings. Today, it is the third largest pizza chain in the country.
Its positioning is as interesting as its backstory. Papa John’s strongly believes that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it. The focus is quality of ingredients, despite being unabashedly mass with pizzas starting at just Rs. 55.
Its counterpart, Pizza Express, is positioned as an authentic Italian pizza brand. It came to India in December 2012, and has eight outlets as of now – all in Delhi, National Capital Region, and Mumbai.
It is positioned at the top end with its cheapest vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings priced at Rs. 395 and Rs. 525, respectively.
The secret behind its boffo performance in a little over two and a half years is the crackerjack ingredients; some of them are even imported. These include tomato passata from the Gerci family based near Parma, Italy, variants of cheese such as Emilgrana, Fontal, Gorgonzola, and Ricotta, and extra virgin olive oil.
The brand is carrying Peter Boizot’s legacy forward, who, inspired by a trip to Italy, brought back a pizza oven from Naples and a chef from Sicily. In 1965, he opened his first restaurant in London.
If you’re in the west or the south of India, you should definitely try the delicious Papa John’s Fajita pizza or Nawabi pizza. If you’re anywhere near NCR or Mumbai, Pizza Express is the go-to place for the thin wheat crust pizzas, Calabrese pizzas, delectable side dishes and the truly awesome cocktails on the menu.
Although the two newcomers don’t come close to Domino’s and Pizza Hut in terms of number of outlets, they are sure catching on at a time when everyone is on the lookout for something different. The pocket friendliness of Papa John’s and the sophistication of Pizza Express are appending to the interesting brew of Pizza franchising in India, and we are definitely not complaining!