Belfast pizza wars heat up as Greens expands
One of the most well-established pizza restaurants in Belfast is set to expand as the city's appetite for the Italian speciality grows.
Independent Belfast pizzeria Greens is hoping to expand its Lisburn Road branch, should planners give their approval.
The move will almost double the size of the restaurant's serving area and could see it take on up to an extra 10 employees and increase its seating area by 30 people from 50.
The plans will see the pizzeria take over the ground floor of the building next door, a former estate agents, with a planning application currently under consideration by Belfast City Council.
Will Clark said: "We opened in 1995 and back then we would have had three or four tables at the front of the restaurant but over time the building has been expanded and we are now able to seat around 50 people.
"The biggest thing for us was to get a bathroom downstairs, something we haven't been able to have since we opened. We thought we needed to come into the 21st century - that's very important for us, but it's been very difficult to expand the current premises so when the opportunity to take on next door came up it was perfect.
"This gives us the opportunity to expand our business a little bit, make things more efficient and employ some more people. It's an opportunity to move forward a little bit."
Will added that he would consider opening more restaurants but said it would depend on the "right opportunity coming up".
"We certainly can't rest on our laurels because we don't have any," he added. "If you're not going forwards you're going backwards."
Next year the store will celebrate its 30th birthday on the road, after it first opened as Pizza the Action in 1988. At the time it was the area's first pizzeria - now it is one of at least half a dozen on the road. And there is a second Greens Pizza branch in Ballyhackamore, east Belfast.
Around a decade ago multinational rival Pizza Express opened next door on Lisburn Road, and has also been joined on the road by Little Wing - part of the Beannchor Group run by hotelier Bill Wolsey - and the Belfast Wood Fired Pizza Company, among several others.
But Will said he wasn't intimidated by the pizza giant next door: "They have a different market and a different marketing strategy. Customers know that we are a local company and I think a lot of people like to support the local one.
"They know that we are a Belfast company and that everything we do benefits other local people."
Food critic John McKenna - the co-author of the McKennas Guides - said it was a case of "the more the merrier" in an area like the Lisburn Road, which he said had now become a "food district".
"Eating out used to be an event but now it's something you do on a Wednesday night.
"People want to go out for cheaper meals more often. They might want a pizza but they'll want it to be a great pizza." And the public was now more discerning when it came to quality.
Pizza Express now has five Belfast outlets - in Bedford Street, St Anne's Square, Victoria Square Shopping Centre, Lisburn Road and Ballyhackamore.