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D.C.’s &pizza Sues Alleged European Copycat @pizza

The homegrown chain is determined to defend its brand

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The original &pizza location on H Street NE.
Photo: &pizza
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Fed up with imposters trying to capitalize on its brand, D.C.-based &pizza recently filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit to deter other would-be copycats.

The homegrown chain, which has 23 East Coast locations and more shops on the way, is suing a new Scottish company called @pizza that’s scheduled to open in Edinburgh this month. The similarities are almost comical: @pizza sports nearly identical black-and-white logos, menus, ingredients, mission statement — and even calls its staff “tribe” members as well.

“We have seen elements of this happen before but not as blatant,” &pizza CEO Michael Lastoria tells Eater. “We want to make sure we protect our intellectual property because it’s a brand we hold so near and dear.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court this month, seeks $2 million in damages for trademark and copyright infringement, unfair competition and trespass. The lawsuit also claims that the founders of @pizza took “one or more trips” to D.C., posing as customers to gather intel about the company. They even used images of &pizza's shops in their branding materials.

“[The suit] is not because we want to be perceived as tough, but we are protecting our creative soul and artists we work with,” says Lastoria.

According to Lastoria, the &pizza crew typically hears about other would-be copycats from fans traveling abroad; they return with tales of spotting similarly shaped boxes and familiar looking logos.

“We are all for inspiring other businesses and entrepreneurs to do their thing,” says Lastoria, whose background is in advertising. “In the restaurant and retail industry this happens more often than we would like to admit and it ranges the gamut from a little to a lot. The world doesn’t need another copycat concept.”

On a lighter note, he reports that New York City is embracing the two new locations of &pizza.

”In a cluttered pizza market, we are standing out,” he says. Lastoria plans to open four to six new locations in NYC in 2018. “After Sweetgreen and Cava, it’s fun to see us as the third local brand that has the opportunity to go there and thrive.”

Up next on the expansion agenda is bringing &pizza to Miami and Boston. Locally, he says another restaurant is arriving “very soon” in Tysons Corner, with a spot in Adams Morgan scheduled to follow.