Who: Pizza Express
When: 30 January 2013
Law stated as at: 30 January 2013
The ASA has put a stop to Pizza Express’ new radio advertising campaign, which boasts “whether it’s a classic American with extra anchovies, or added olives, it’s only made fresh from the moment you order. Pizza Express, we don’t start without you”.
This claim was challenged by a member of the public on the grounds that some food preparation, particularly the chopping up of ingredients, was done in advance and crucially before the order is placed by the customer.
Pizza Express argued that this was not the case, emphasising that its pizzas were “entirely customisable and not pre-prepared”, in accordance with their mission statement; to provide the freshest food to order for their customers.
Stretching, chopping, tearing, drizzling
Specifically, Pizza Express prides itself on the fact that all dough used to make its pizza bases is hand stretched and tossed into different base styles for every pizza ordered: this can be seen by customers in the open kitchens, a prominent feature of Pizza Express’ restaurants.
Pizza Express argued that the only times when dough was not pre-stretched to order was at times when to do so would not be possible; in their busiest restaurants at the two busiest times of day. Even in these cases restrictions were imposed – dough was only allowed to be pre-stretched up to a maximum of 20 minutes before use (and thrown away if it had been left for any longer).
Similarly, although fresh vegetables and pizza toppings were constantly chopped throughout the day, restaurants were allowed to pre-prepare the highest volume items (mushrooms, onions and peppers) twice a day, to cope with the rush at lunch and dinner times. Importantly however, even the very busiest restaurants
would nonetheless chop ingredients as the orders came in, in addition to those two periods of preparation.
Pizza Express’ claims that ingredients were “torn” was in fact true, as ham and chicken were the only ingredients to be torn, and this was done to order for every (non-vegetarian) pizza. Seasoning was added only just before cooking and any drizzling of oil/dressing was done just before serving.
However, the ASA chose not to agree with the advertiser and whilst acknowledging that the preparations described in the ads were generally done to order, it considered that the claims were too bold, and in many cases untrue.
Specifically, claims that “your order is our start gun” and “only then do we chop, knead, tear, season, drizzle and bake”as well as “we don’t start without you” implied that those preparations specifically identified would not begin until after an order was received. Because this was not the case, with pre-preparation taking place in busy periods, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading.
Why this matters:
The ASA rules that the ad breached rules 3.1 (misleading advertising) and 3.12 (exaggeration) of the BCAP Code and must not be broadcast again in its current form.
Pizza Express was warned that future advertising should not exaggerate the extent to which food was prepared to order.
Despite only receiving one complaint, the ASA were keen to ensure that the public were not misled by the ad. The ASA guidance notes that whether an ad can be considered to be “misleading” will depend on whether it is: (i) likely to deceive consumers (particularly through ambiguity or omitting information); and
(ii) is likely to cause consumers to take transactional decisions that they would not otherwise have taken. The transactional test is quite broad, and the customer is not even required to actually purchase the item advertised (making further enquiries into a website would appear to be sufficient). In the circumstances, the decision would appear to be strict.