A Express is being groomed for a sale by its private equity owners in a move which could also see the sale of stablemate eateries Ask and Zizzi.
The popular chain, which is controlled by a company called Gondola Group, is working with Goldman Sachs and Rothschild to explore either a float or outright sale of the business, which could raise up to £900m.
Gondola, which is controlled by private equity giant Cinven, also owns Ask and Zizzi and sources say splitting the businesses into different parts would allow each to reap bigger rewards if sold.
Gondola has already practiced the strategy with hamburger restaurant Byron, which was sold to private equity firm Hutton Collins last year for £100m.
Pizza Express has strong growth potential overseas, with a franchise already in China.