Pizza Express has been censured by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for claiming in a radio advert that it only prepared pizzas after an order had been placed.
The Gondola-owned restaurant chain has been banned from running the ad again it its current form.
A voice-over on the ad claimed: "At PizzaExpress, your order is our start gun. Only then do we chop, knead, tear, season, drizzle and bake. Because, whether it's a classic American with extra anchovies, or added olives, it's only made fresh from the moment you order. PizzaExpress, we don't start without you."
But one listener challenged the ad for being misleading because she understood that some food preparation, such as chopping, was done before orders were placed.
Pizza Express responded by saying it did not make any pizza before it placed an order and that its pizzas were entirely customisable and not prepared.
The company said all dough had to be hand-stretched and tossed into several different styles of base, which was done to order in the majority of cases, and that customers could view the results in its open kitchens, although it did admit that dough was occasionally stretched in advance, and not to order, in the busiest restaurants at the busiest times of day but could not be left to stand longer than 20 minutes, otherwise it would be thrown away.
Similarly, while fresh ingredients were chopped throughout the day, the busiest restaurants would chop high volume ingredients such as mushrooms, onions and peppers twice daily in preparation for peak periods.
Ham and chicken were the only ingredients that were torn, and this was done to order in every instance.
But the ASA upheld the complaint. It said it focused in particular on the claims "your order is our start gun", "Only then do we chop, knead, tear, season, drizzle and bake", "it's only made fresh from the moment you order" and "we don't start without you", which would be understood to mean those preparations began only after an order was received.
It ruled that the ad breached BCAP Code rule 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.12 (Exaggeration), and must not be broadcast again in its current form. It also told Pizza Express not to exaggerate in future about the extent to which its food was prepared to order.
In a response to the ruling, a Pizza Express spokesperson said: "The ASA received an isolated complaint from a listener who challenged our radio advert. The RACC approved our advert and we stand by it. The listener understood some food preparation, such as chopping, is done before orders are placed. We take pride in serving the freshest food. All of our pizzas are entirely customisable and never pre-prepared. Our busiest kitchens may chop high volume items such as mushrooms, onions and peppers, ahead of peak periods. The RACC believed the average consumer would understand a degree of pre-preparation for busy periods was necessary and that the advert was not misleading."