In its PizzaRev case study series, CSA offers an insider’s look at the conception, initial rollout and growth of the southern California-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 very quickly in a high-end stone hearth oven. A test kitchen in Northridge, California, was launched in April 2012 and 10 additional locations followed over the past two years.
In part seven of our series, PizzaRev’s senior management team, Irv Zuckerman and Rodney Eckerman, and exclusive broker and X Team International Partner Bob Haas, review the strategic “Test Kitchen” approach deployed to ensure seamless franchisee openings around the country.
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: 11
Average size: 2,000-3,000 sq. ft.
Recognition: Franchise Times Deal of the Year 2014
While growth through franchising was certainly a priority for southern California-based fast-casual concept PizzaRev, the company leadership knew streamlining processes and ensuring consistent quality in-house in the short term would pay off exponentially in the long run. That’s why the PizzaRev business plan called for a full year of operation in the original store prior to any franchising.
"It just made sense to hone our operations at our stores, and iron out any kinks before offering franchise opportunities,” said Co-CEO Rodney Eckerman. “In fact, we spent every day for an entire year refining our operation in a studied, clinical fashion. We always viewed store one as a test kitchen, and we immediately applied our changes as stores two and three developed.”
Learning from hands-on experience in store number one, the PizzaRev team remained nimble and applied operational “patches” in real time while opening the second and third store.
"Knowing our first franchisee would be our partner, Buffalo Wild Wings, made our effort even more compelling and fun at the same time,” added partner Irv Zuckerman. “We knew the Buffalo Wild Wings team would respond well to our suggested improvements, and understand our mission to perfect our processes before expanding.”
The test kitchen approach paid off — creating a replicable store-opening model that was seamless, consistent and effective. In May 2014, PizzaRev’s first franchised unit opened in a Minneapolis suburb to rave reviews on all fronts, and no operational hiccups at any level. The model has also been applied to franchisee's planned openings in Salt Lake City, Orange County, California and Austin, Texas, simplifying the process even though there are three different franchisee groups involved.
"We have extensive resources available to our franchisees through our extranet, providing easy access to and application of the tools needed to successfully launch and manage a PizzaRev store,” said Eckerman. “It is important to deliver a consistent customer experience to every PizzaRev guest, and these resources enable our franchisees to do so easily.”
Providing the right franchisee toolbox will be a strong differentiator for PizzaRev. Better up front planning and enhanced ongoing support to all store operators opens the door to growth potential, and assures PizzaRev franchisees that corporate support will always be there.
“As a result of our test kitchen strategy, we’ve had our ‘skin in the game’ from the beginning, and franchisees understand our level of commitment to the success of every PizzaRev location,” Zuckerman interjected. “That commitment is further evidenced by our continuous updates, testing and troubleshooting to all systems in our company stores before rolling them out to franchisees.”
The PizzaRev leadership team continues to foster a culture of daily active participation with passion for their franchisees, which come from a wide range of brands and disciplines including fast casual, QSR, casual dining and fine dining.
“There’s no question that the franchisee support provided by the PizzaRev team has helped us seal many of the deals we’ve done to date,” commented Bob Haas, exclusive PizzaRev broker, X Team International Partner and Co-Founder of L.A.-based Cypress Retail Group. “It will be a critical component to the continued growth of the franchise.”
"While we know launching a franchise isn't rocket science, we also acknowledge that it is critical to get it right the first time,” concluded Zuckerman. “Treating the test kitchen process with anything less than a serious effort shortchanges what we are all about — providing an outstanding guest experience that fuels our interactive model.”