Last year, Pie Five Pizza Co. created a new brand called Pizza Inn Holdings Inc. that introduced a new concept to the public and changed the way people think of pizzas. Now it has six branches with another one on the way!
This new concept orbited from the idea of having pizza within 3 minutes, giving consumers the opportunity to casually see and choose their own toppings in a walk-thru line queue set up.
CEO Charlie Morrison of Pizza Inn Holdings Inc. shares that the new idea of having a new brand is their way of changing the mindset of people around casual and fast dining.
“It came from a number of different angles. I've always been a proponent of making fresh pizza fast for the customer, and the growth of the fast casual segment is certainly a driver behind that idea. When we looked at fast casual then, however, it had sandwiches, burritos, salads, but there was really nothing behind pizza, so we wanted to execute that. We found that consumers struggled with the idea of a pizza chain having a separate look and feel, so we decided to change the branding.” Morrison said.
Of course, many steps were taken before the idea was executed and many conflicts arised. In fact, the first step they had to go through was to find an efficient oven that could deliver a cooked pizza fast.
“We use TurboChef and I believe they've been an innovator in finding ways to get things baked faster. This equipment has a belt width of 21 inches and it doesn't require hood ventilation, which was a big deal in the spaces we were considering. We found what we were looking for – the ability to assemble pizzas, drop it in an oven and have it to the customer in 2 to 2 ½ minutes.” Said Morrison and he also added that even as early as now, the company struggles in attachment challenges. “Coming up with a new brand entirely meant we had to walk away from the legacy and history and all the positive credibility that comes from Pizza Inn. That was tough, but it allowed us to leverage a higher price point and play with unique toppings and offerings. We also had to communicate to our existing franchisees that we weren't going to infringe on their territory.”
Pizza Inn Holdings Inc. has also ensured that they avoid competition by focusing on different markets and emphasizing the two combined strengths of Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza.
“Pizza Inn is dominant in smaller markets – towns of 100,000 people or less. It only exists in a few major markets, like Dallas and Houston. Pie Five is centered on major markets, so where we're not penetrated now is where we're focused. Plus, Pie Five is a completely different customer set – it skews younger, higher income, more educated. Pizza Inn is more Middle America and it feeds on the value-conscious customer. Two different customers eat at these two different restaurants. We see the Pie Five brand complementing Pizza Inn.”
The future for Pizza Inn Holdings Inc. is clear for them, setting their goals to a fast but moderate expansion through franchising targeted at 4-5 restaurants a quarter. This way, the moderation can entail good decisions and productivity.
The new concept also meant new locations for Pizza Inn Holdings as they plan on expanding in unexpected places like airports and campuses.
Aside from expansions, other plans for marketing include “Our word-of-mouth marketing has been really successful in raising awareness. Our most recent opening has been our most successful and that's a good sign for the business. We have done pre-opening celebrations with free samples, which stimulates the market. We've also done direct male and broad-based advertising to start. Long term, we'll use strategically placed billboards and, of course, we'll take advantage of social media.”
Morrison also shares that Pie Five’s growth has been seen to be in a good position, focusing on the niche that it wants to be in – a fast casual dining that gives people what they want with high quality. But overall, Pie five and Pizza Inn will not just be separate entities. In fact, both businesses have grown from each other and Morrison is very proud of the changes and where it is right now.
“I am pleased to say where we started is where we are today. We're still learning and tweaking small things, but we are absolutely where we thought we'd be. I'm very proud of this concept. I feel like we've created a leadership position in this segment.”