Pizza Express gets flirty in the battle against 'social media isolation'
It is often said that the art of conversation is dead.
Well, food chain Pizza Express will address that hypothesis by trialling a new employee motivation training scheme that will see its staff mentored in the art of flirting, helping them to better engage in banter with diners.
Pizza Express will trial the new methods at its innovative 'Living Lab' concept store, situated in Richmond, London. The project will be overseen by Karl James, director of The Dialogue Project, a training consultancy that believes the art of conversation is a "teachable skill".
A source close to the company told the Daily Telegraph: "With social media and texting reducing our face-to-face interaction, Pizza Express has enlisted the help of a conversational expert who is incorporating flirting and unique conversation techniques… into its new staff training scheme to help completely redefine the restaurant experience for customers." The source added that Mr James would tutor waiting staff "how to flirt (subtly) with customers so they feel more comfortable and relaxed".
Reaction has been mixed. The Guardian's food blog was critical, calling the idea "slightly creepy" and bemoaning that "there's enough artificial charm jammed into the high street dining experience already".
Interestingly, Mr James himself popped up on the blog's comments section, inviting its author, Tim Hayward, to join him for lunch at Living Lab to see the techniques in action.
Praising his team of "genuine, hard-working and dedicated young men and women who enjoy their work immensely", Mr James posited: "Let me invite you to lunch with me at the new Pizza Express in Richmond.
"You'll find that far from the cliché you've imagined there's actually something rather interesting happening there. Something based on sensitivity to others, a passion for delicious food and great conversation and driven by an unusually sincere idea of putting the customer's experience first."
However, judging by the majority of the rest of the comments on the blog, it seems most diners in fact look for a set of traditional standards when they eat out; namely: efficient service and good grub. Contributor Rinkydink commented: "Ugh. I just want service to be civil and efficient. Don't praise my choices, don't fawn, just say hello, take my order and then bring me the right order," while Jo6789 got straight to the point: "I just want pizza."
What do you think?