PizzaRev: Standing Out in a Crowd

In its PizzaRev case study series, CSA Online offers an insider’s look at the conception, initial rollout and growth 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 very quickly in a high-end stone hearth oven. A test kitchen in Northridge, Calif., was launched in April 2012 and two additional locations quickly followed.

In part six 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 fast casual restaurant growth in 2013 and how PizzaRev adapted to increased pressures and competition, as well as their plans for the new year.

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: 5
Average size: 2,000 sq. ft. - 3,000 sq. ft.

Making the full swing into 2014, a quick review of the customized pizza space, and the fast casual food space, is in order. In the last year or so, the growth and literal explosion of new fast casual food concepts has hit the market with a bang. While many of these concepts have come and gone, those that have succeeded have something in common — an entrée item that is well-known and craveable.

“Fast casual really shows no signs of slowing down,” said Haas. “According to a report by Technomic, fast casual sales increased 13% in 2013 and continue to outperform quick-service and full-service establishments. They posted strong gains even while the rest of the industry was having a more difficult time.”

Concepts like PizzaRev that have been able to successfully incorporate America’s favorite foods with a few good twists are finding the most success in today’s market. The outline of coming up with a concept seems simple when writing it out: 1. Give the customers a full choice of options that are visible to them as they order; 2. Charge one price for any or all of those options; 3. Serve it to customers FAST. Turns out, it's not that simple. But, that didn’t seem to stop fast casual growth in 2013.

Any industry veteran knows that new concepts that show promise can expect an increase in competitors with similar concepts vying for business. In the fast casual pizza space, major players like Chipotle and California Pizza Kitchen have announced or opened concepts in the last year.

Zuckerman maintains a positive perspective on the increased competition, commenting, “We have seen some major players enter the market, but we don’t see this as a threat. It can only broaden the acceptance of this new concept and potentially add more innovation, which should ultimately sharpen everyone’s skills.”

As new concepts catch on, the customer evolution has also become apparent. This can be looked at as an opportunity or threat for retailers. For those who have been in the same space for a long time, it can be an unwelcome change. Casual dining restaurants, slow-make pizza restaurants, as well as the "big box" delivery segment are being pushed to become more innovative and offer better prices and better products. In the end the consumer wins, and all of the restaurants are forced to put their best foot forward.

For Eckerman and Zuckerman, the customer evolution has presented a welcomed opportunity. “People want to feel that they are being engaged from first impression to last,” said Zuckerman. “Our model begins by giving everyone a strong sense that an investment has been made to make them feel that the experience will be a special one.”

Concepts like PizzaRev have the power to completely change the way things have been done for years. PizzaRev took the traditional pizza experience and gave it a fresh and accessible image — giving pizza lovers the chance to have gourmet pizza during a quick lunch break or on the go. Having the confidence and believing their concept would ultimately shift the pizza paradigm for years to come has been a driving force for Eckerman and Zuckerman through the process of building PizzaRev.

Moving into the new year, they will continue to focus on new ideas and optimizing PizzaRev’s processes. With more corporate stores and new franchise openings on the immediate horizon, their focus for 2014 will continue to be on how to maximize customer experience by maintaining consistency at each store.

Click here for past case study entries.

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