February 19, 2016


Acumen was delighted to launch Project Pie in the UK and Europe – a pioneering and refreshingly different pizza franchise which had been going down a storm in California. Could it do the same here?

We certainly thought so….

One of the most fiercely competitive aspects of the ‘fast food’ market is marketing the humble Pizza.

Hundreds of independents – stand-alone Italian Pizza Restaurants, general take-a-ways and fish and chip shops – vie with the dominant market leaders such as Papa Johns, Dominoes and Pizza Hut to get a ‘slice’ of the action.

So when Acumen was approached to manage a comprehensive PR campaign for the launch of an invigoratingly fresh approach to the Pizza market, we were delighted to help – and take up the challenge of breaking the habit of how Pizza is marketed in the UK

The Product

Project Pie is an ambitious ‘fast casual’ pizza concept which launched in San Diego in 2013 and planned to open its first UK store in Dundee, Scotland in 2015. One of 60 outlets the company hope to roll out across the UK over the next 10 years.

The concept was created and developed by James Markham, a serial entrepreneur and pioneer of the ‘fast casual pizza movement’ which has taken America by storm.

It was brought to Europe by US Realtor entrepreneurs Susan and John Canavan in partnership with renowned UK Restaurant Industry man, Niall Howard, who built The Michelin-starred Hakkasan Group, into one of the world’s most distinguished global restaurant, lounge and nightlife brands.

Project Pie’s is famous in its homeland for its “Design – Build – Eat” theme of “Artisan Pizza Custom Built by You”. Customers can choose from a range of 28 toppings – including a range of cheeses, meats, vegetables and herbs and spices.

The key to this ‘fast pizza’ concept lay in the stone hearth oven. Up to 20 Pizzas – each 12 inches in diameter – can be simultaneously baked in the Woodstone stone-hearth oven at 680 degrees Fahrenheit in under three minutes. That temperature was key! No other pizza over cooks at such a high temperature. Traditional Pizza ovens take much longer – up to 15-20 minutes.

The PR Programme

Acumen prepared a multi-faceted PR programme for Project Pie. We brought in other ‘marketing elements’ to provide a complete holistic approach to the PR programme.

We arranged a series of one-to-one local and national interviews with Niall Howard across the print and digital media the pressing question put to him by journalists was always ‘Why Dundee and not Edinburgh or Glasgow’?

Niall had identified Dundee as the ‘launch pad’ for Project Pie in Europe because of the density of its centrally located student population as well as it being a compact and bustling city centre with a consistently high footfall in the area chosen for the development the ever popular Reform Street.

Acumen followed this up with an extensive trade media blitz across the national and international trade media print and digital titles and engaged with some very high profile food bloggers. Simultaneously, our social media manager, Chris Kennedy, executed a brilliant ‘taster’ campaign with a series of cryptic messages and incentives across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The launch day itself – Valentine’s Day – was a truly humbling experience. The PR plan had worked perfectly. Queues had formed from early morning around the corner from the front door and when the doors opened at 10am – the good people of Dundee were the first to witness – and taste quite a remarkable revolution in the crowded Pizza Restaurant market.

The media truly had a field day!