Fast-casual dining: The BIG Picture

In the second installment of a case study series, CSA online continued to offer an insider’s look at the conception and initial rollout of the southern Calif.-based fast-casual concept PizzaRev. Likened to “the Chipotle of pizza,” this innovative chain lets customers choose from an artisanal array of toppings to craft their own pizzas. A test kitchen in Northridge, Calif., was launched in April 2012 and three additional locations soon followed.

In part three of our series, PizzaRev’s senior management team and exclusive broker and X Team International Partner Bob Haas take a big picture look at the challenges and steps to successfully starting up a fast-casual restaurant.

Quick Facts about PizzaRev:

What: Fast-casual, “craft your own” artisanal pizza restaurant
Who: Partners and Co-CEOs Rodney Eckerman and Irv Zuckerman, Partner and COO Nicholas Eckerman, Partner and CMO Jeff Zuckerman, Exclusive Broker Bob Haas, X Team International Partner and Co-Founder of L.A.-based Cypress Retail Group
Current number of stores: 4
Average size: Two prototypes, 1,700 sq. ft. to 2,000 sq. ft. and 2,500 sq. ft. to 2,800 sq. ft.
Website: Pizzarev.com

The big picture can only be seriously contemplated when the little things are done as well as possible.

In the restaurant business, everyday is a new challenge to be better, to note the things you did and improve them. This process includes looking at every part of the restaurant experience that a customer comes in contact with – and even those they don’t. A neat and clean environment that is accompanied with a friendly welcome when they arrive are all important points of the customer continuum.

PizzaRev’s ultimate mission is to become the "go to" restaurant when people are determining where to go for their casual dining experience. However, the fact is that there are hundreds of places to have lunch or dinner, so in order to achieve this lofty goal, PizzaRev has taken a somewhat straightforward approach – ensure every part of the restaurant experience is a positive one for the customer.

While any restaurant aims to create a positive exchange between guest and employee, too often what is missing in the fast-casual space is the interest in the relationship. Without that interest, the process starts in the wrong direction, or at best a neutral one. With everything PizzaRev has implemented and continually works to improve, they strongly believe it is possible to imprint the quality experience from the get go, and that their services will create a decidedly positive outcome.

Some of the ways PizzaRev has been able to accomplish this is by the visual experience their customers have in choosing from over 35 pizza toppings. They also have designated ‘pizziolas’ to help each customer by answering any of their questions. This interactive and “VIP” experience makes the relationship even more dynamic and memorable, as each customer watches their own creation in the stone hearth oven. Taking it one step further, PizzaRev surveys and mystery shops their own restaurants in order to internally evaluate their process and restaurants. By continually monitoring their establishments to improve any points that might enhance the entire process and ultimate customer experience, PizzaRev leaves no stone left unturned when it comes to bettering their efforts and the eventual result.

Doing the unexpected whenever possible is another approach PizzaRev takes to provide the ultimate customer experience. That might include offering a free dessert or additional drink. If it is part of a "deal" it is inherent, but if it is offered as a thank you, it is a win for the guest and another chance to extend the relationship. In fast-casual especially, it's simply too easy to think the relationship ends with the customer being served. Instead, ensure they don't need anything else and if they do, satisfy that request. Yes, it's fast-casual but thoughtfulness is always appreciated. PizzaRev’s employees are encouraged to offer "to go" boxes wherever it seems appropriate, and to make absolutely sure that the leftovers and trash are promptly handled accordingly. Upon exit, each guest is thanked for dining there.

The fast-casual space is among the fastest growing sectors of all restaurants, and while PizzaRev continues to operate in ways that are sensitive to the elements within the industry, the management and staff continually strive to do more than is expected. As the industry grows and the fast-casual space occupies a larger piece of the restaurant pie, the competition will likewise heat up. Though customers are just beginning to get familiar and comfortable with the fast-casual experience, PizzaRev foresees that the competition within the “build your own” market will assist in shortening the learning curve of the space and allow a more comparative view between brands, developing fiercely loyal fans to their favorite restaurants.

In the end, paying attention to every last detail and offering the best product and service will win out. Although perhaps somewhat obvious, that is PizzaRev’s BIG picture.


To follow the story of PizzaRev, please stay tuned to ChainStoreAge.com and click here for past case study entries.

 

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