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INTERVIEW: Johhnie Tate

Culture and Community at Yard Sale Pizza

The idea for Yard Sale Pizza was cooked up in a hand-built oven, from a Hackney back yard. Driven by the ambition to create a new kind of neighbourhood pizza delivery business, they opened their first site in 2014, and Land of Plenty have been with them from day one, on the journey to create the brand that’s so familiar across North, East, and now South, London.

Yard Sale does more than most with their pizza – supplying pies for local PTA meetings, hosting cooking training events alongside local charities, and collaborating with some of London’s most loved eateries and people: community thinking is seen in everything they put out there. We sat down with co-founder Johnnie Tate, to ask about how the Yard Sale brand, and they way they think about what they do in front of, and behind that counter, has situated them as one of London’s favourite pizza joints – with eleven shops and counting – and their aspirations to become the nation’s favourite pizza delivery service.


LOP: Thanks for making time Johnnie! Let’s dive in: on your website, it says you’ll always be local at heart. What does that mean in practice, and how have you baked that in (scuse the pun!) to things as you’ve grown?

JT: When we started out we thought there’s three keys to success; one was having an amazing quality product – better than the competition. Two was having an amazing quality brand and marketing function. Again, that was a notch above the competition. And then three was having an amazing team of people, and looking after that team of people and motivating them to provide amazing products and service. We’ve focused on those three things equally, which is where we are today. For us, it was all about working with local people: all of our drivers, all our front of house teams, the vast majority of those are young local people. And that’s still very much the case, even as we go to open our eleventh shop. It’s probably more convenient to order food through a delivery app, but I think people appreciate the fact that we’re an independent business, and have our own delivery fleet, which is very rare these days. Working with Land of Plenty early on, we thought a lot about who we are, and we always talked about the idea of being the ‘go to local neighbourhood pizza joint’. And, to this day, we still always focus our thinking around that idea. At one point, after opening the first shop we asked ourselves, do we want to go to central London and open a big, shiny restaurant? We realised no, that’s not us, we’re in neighbourhoods, in the local delivery space and we have built a relationship with our community and have lots of happy returning customers, which is key to any success we may feel. Each shop is tuned into its specific location. The decisions we make on each shopfront and interiors are based on what is going on in the surrounding area and the vibe there. So some are a little bit smarter or a bit younger. Each shop we want to feel has its own thing that belongs to the local neighbourhoods.


LOP: So thinking about how you present your spaces and your product to your audience has been key to maintaining that local community feel?

JT: When we were creating the brand with you guys at Land of Plenty, one of the things we talked a lot about is that we didn’t want to start looking like a chain and we wanted to have a bit of an ‘anti brand’ spirit. It was something we felt really strongly about. I like to think we’ve done a really good job of creating something that reflects this and doesn’t feel like a mini chain.

We didn’t want to be this shiny, hipster gentrifying sort of business. That’s always been something we were really conscious of. We’ve talked a lot about accessibility over the years and price has often been one of the first things we focus on. We always wanted to have a really good value entry level product that anyone can enjoy – this is why we try and keep our Margherita at as low a price point as possible. In terms of all the work we do on our brand, the design and marketing needed to not be too shiny, it needs to be family friendly, to appeal to older people, younger people, from all different communities and ethnicities. That’s been so important for us: from a business perspective we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves into just one bracket. You want everyone to be able to enjoy what you do – we’ve made a big effort to get to know people and get to know our local residents. For us this is key when creating something that ‘s accessible to all. Land of Plenty helped us build the brand to what it is today. We went slow and it has been challenging to get to where we are now – we had a lot of inflection points and changes in directions. But I think those conversations around accessibility and authenticity were very important early on. I was really, really wary of trying to create something too quickly, that began to feel corporate – you know, just make a design deck and plaster it over everything. You see a lot of businesses do that and it always makes me a little bit uncomfortable, because it feels like it’s all been put together too quickly. We’re sort of slow and steady with it. And sometimes I think less was more.

LOP: you’ve clearly thought a lot about your customer when thinking about how you translate community into your brand, but we know it runs a lot deeper than that. Can you tell us more?

I don’t want to start falling into clichés, but I really want Yard Sale to be a company where people enjoy working and feel respected. I want people to feel they can make a difference at work and so we’ve always had that at the heart of what we do: treating the people who work for us well, with respect. Ideally, I’d like us to be one of the best employers in the country – maybe even a Times Top 100 company to work for. Alongside that part, at the heart of what we do is building relationships and treating people well in the local community, in whatever way that works, and doing the right thing. We like to use pizza to make a difference. When COVID first came about, we did a big campaign, getting pizzas to 8000 NHS staff in the first year. We did funding through our merch shop, and basically just raised a lot of money, and then delivered a lot of pizza to a lot of hospitals. We didn’t have to do that, but it felt like the right thing to do for us. We work with lots of local and UK based charities too, it just seems important for us to use what we have to help people out.

LOP: Amazing. Community and sustainability are so linked for us – creating a culture where brands are thinking about the wellbeing of the people they come into contact with. We’re also interested to hear about how you’ve been thinking about sustainability and climate. We know it can be tough for businesses to foreground this against the current costs of running a business, but how is Yard Sale doing its best for the planet?

JT: I’m not going to claim that we’re brilliant or perfect with it, but we are getting better. One of the things I’m most proud of is that 70% of our delivery fleet are now electric bikes. Three years ago, we only had three. As a business we do have to weigh up quality as well. Most of our packaging is cardboard, but the reason we use plastic pizza tripods is because they’re the best at protecting the product. And actually, if we don’t use those, we often end up having to redeliver loads of pizza because they get squashed – creating a whole load of waste and extra journeys. We are being experimental, and always thinking about our packaging. At one of our shops down in Brockley, someone was actually collecting the tripods and turning them into a limited edition product, it was really exciting!

LOP: Part of the reason we’re putting together this report is to provide a dose of inspiration to people who are developing brands, or revisiting how they are doing things. So finally, what’s keeping you inspired and excited right now?

JT: I found there’s a lot of new pizza places emerging, like Crisp, Vincenzos and Gracey’s, all around the outskirts of London. They’re clearly so passionate about what they’re doing, putting out the most brilliant product, and that really reminded me what it’s all about, and why we’re in this. It’s a reminder that we need to keep pushing to be the best, we can’t rest on our laurels, we need to keep trying to improve if we want to still be the best pizza place in London. I think that’s been really inspiring seeing those guys come through and reminding me of the early days.

LOP: High praise indeed! Thanks for sharing your insight with us.



At Land of Plenty, building brands is about a 360 approach. Immersing ourselves in your world and your customers’, as well as making sure to look outwards and upwards along the way. Great brands can only exist with great businesses behind them. For us, Yard Sale Pizza is a fine example of that killer combination. We hope you’ve enjoyed the conversation we’ve shared, and the honest insights into life at the business end of London’s favourite pizza joint.

View the full case study here