Industry News | July 30, 2013

Minnesota-based SOLOS Offers Franchise Opportunities

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SOLOS Pizza Café Franchising LLC, is building upon the three Solos Pizza Café restaurants operated by its affiliate, is now offering investment opportunities to interested franchisees.

 

SOLOS offers “signature” and make-your-own individual pizzas. Using state of the art oven technology—combined with an award winning menu—SOLOS produces a one of a kind pizza crust customers can top with a long list of classic and unique toppings, like peppadew peppers, southwest chipotle pesto, and smoked bacon to name a few. Customers watch as their individual SOLOS pizza is hand-made right before their eyes and then baked piping hot in under three minutes.

 

Bruce Thomson and Brian Banick are the partners behind the SOLOS Pizza Café concept which has three locations in the Twin Cities metro: Maple Grove, Plymouth, and Eagan. Thomson has earned his own entrepreneurial fame having started several popular companies including: ProEx Photo and Archiver’s scrapbooking superstores. He is responsible for building ProEx Photo to 38 locations and $20 million in sales when he sold the company in 1992. Thomson and his partners started Archiver’s in 2000 and grew the company to nearly 38 stores and $61 million in sales.

 

Through his experience, Thomson found the best business ideas include unique offerings that are researched, tested and researched some more. He saw the rising trend in fast casual dining and an opportunity to bring a new concept to the arena. "I saw it working at Chipotle, Panera, and Noodles, and I thought it could work for individual pizza," Thomson says.

 

Fast casual signifies higher quality food that is still served quickly in an attractive atmosphere. It is also the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry ballooning to a $31-billion segment since Chipotle began changing the fast food game 20 years ago.

 

Within the fast casual segment, pizza is taking off in terms of growth. In fact, more than a dozen fast casual pizza brands have debuted in the last five years.

 

SOLOS Pizza Cafe is a pioneer of this growing trend both nationally and in Minnesota. While the company opened its first location in 2007, the research and work to get to that point started much earlier and wasn’t too easy.

 

Thomson and Banick decided to focus on individual pizza and the idea that you shouldn’t have to compromise. “You know how it is, mom wants veggies, dad wants meat, and the kids want just cheese. We wanted to offer pizza without sacrifice,” Banick says.

 

After endless research, nine months of oven shopping, and testing more than 40 different dough recipes, SOLOS opened its first location in 2007 in Maple Grove. It did well; very well, topping goals the partners had set for the business. The Plymouth location opened the next year and did even better.

From the beginning, the SOLOS partners have made customer feedback a top priority. They’ve learned how to tweak and change the SOLOS menu and experience to take all compliments and criticism into consideration. Examples include bringing back customers’ favorite toppings like Peppadew peppers, offering a salad/pizza combo, and customer requested calorie conscience options like SO LO calorie pizzas each under 500 calories and served on a crust made with whole grains.

 

After nearly six years of concentration on creating, innovating, and improving the business, the SOLOS partners are ready to find individuals who want to invest in a proven business model. Aside from having experts behind the SOLOS concept, Thomson and Banick are armed with an arsenal of facts and numbers to entice potential pizza franchisers.

 

SOLOS’ menu has already won awards and praise from customers who say SOLOS has combinations they can’t get anywhere else. SOLOS is also one of the first to offer individual pizzas in a fast casual setting and the partners always use research and data to make decisions about the menu, restaurant, and overall business strategy. Systems are documented as part of the effort to ensure consistency and quality in every pizza, every slice, and every bite.

 

We worked hard to make sure we thought of everything and have meticulously documented the SOLOS process breaking it down into easy to understand instructions and guidelines so there is no guesswork for the pizza franchisee in terms of operation. We just need the right people to make it happen,” Banick explains.

 

Word of mouth has always been the main marketing strategy for SOLOS. The partners are now bulking up that effort to include a new website, public relations assistance, and an advertising campaign featuring outdoor boards, radio commercials, and more.