My recent comments, reported in the Gazette, that I don’t believe Middlesbrough wants or needs Pizza Express to open a new restaurant in the town seemed to cause some debate.
The background to the story was that I’d heard Pizza Express might be coming to Middlesbrough and I’m cross about it. I fear that some people will see it as a big win - but it is a negative step as far as I’m concerned.
Maybe 15 years ago Pizza Express was an aspirational brand and people would go to another town to visit one. Back then, it would have been good for our town. But that’s no longer the case because pretty much everywhere has one now.
So Middlesbrough wouldn’t benefit from another one and people will not come here for it. What it would do is cannibalise the trade of the existing local restaurants that keep their profits locally. There’s a few restaurant doing well around Linthorpe Road and Bedford Street areas of Middlesbrough, most of them owned by local people, who will spend the profits here on Teesside. That doesn’t work the same when it’s a national or international brand, whose owners are in London or elsewhere. Equally, there’s only a fixed amount of spending to go round, so some of the local businesses will lose out if brands like Pizza Express come here.
What we, as a town, have to do is set our stall out really high as an area. It’s important we have hopes and ambitions and avoid championing mediocrity.
So I make no apologies for stating that, as far as I’m concerned, Pizza Express can f*** off!