“We didn’t have the capital or the experience to get the capital, but around that time we started seeing a version of food suddenly being taken to the streets in front of us”, Thom recalled. “These were genuine, premium brands and products being sold on the streets around Kings Cross, Peckham, and other places in London.”
After a closer look at the street-food explosion, the pair identify a significant gap in the market…pizza. “The pizza idea was absolutely just because no one else was doing it”, Thom admitted, but that is the truth of so many businesses’ beginnings. It’s a case of looking for a gap, a problem to be solved, and for Thom and his brother, the lack of pizza in the street food scene was that problem.
Their efforts to fill the pizza-shaped void would take them to the home of pizza itself, Naples, where they would learn not only how to make a good pizza themselves, but also gather an appreciation for Italian culinary culture as a whole. To listen to the story in Thom’s own words, tune into the podcast here.
Distinction from the competition
A major part of Pizza Pilgrims’ continued success can be attributed to their dedication to authenticity. “I think we are the closest to what Naples is doing as a specific city,” Thom claimed, and perhaps the most important aspect of that authenticity comes down to the raw ingredients they use. “We still use Caputo flour from the mill in Naples…we get our tomatoes from Italy…and we still get our pure latte mozzarella from somewhere based in Naples, too”, Thom shared. And yet, if you visit Pizza Pilgrims, you’ll notice a few options that don’t exactly scream authenticity, so how does he explain that?
“We’ve tried to bring in some other influences, like when you go to New York, for a bit more fun”, he admitted. “That has caused controversy, but the most controversial option we have is actually a special we have called the Americana, which has chips and frankfurters on it.” This is the point where you’d expect native Italians to become outraged, but you’d be wrong. “It’s probably the most legit Neapolitan pizza there is”, Thom claimed. “Every single kid in Naples is brought up on it, so all of our Neapolitan chefs are in raptures that we’re serving it!”
The controversy has stemmed from people who think they know what authentic Italian food is, but really, they don’t have a clue. “Despite only existing for less than a hundred years, Italy has managed to weave a billion different food cultures into one to create this global image”, Thom explained. It’s a brand, one of the most powerful and pervasive brands in the world.
The pursuit of happiness
Your brand isn’t just how your customers perceive your business. It’s how excited and engaged they are, how likely they are to recommend you or your products to their friends and family, and boosting that likelihood can be achieved in a number of ways.
Aron Gelbard of Bloom & Wild, for instance, revealed on a previous podcast episode that an insatiable obsession with his customers was responsible for his brand’s success. Thom’s obsession, on the other hand, is with happiness. “Our aim is to leave everyone we engage with happier than when we found them,” he explained, “whether that’s our customers, teams, suppliers, or partners.”