Two are planned for Texas and Merced, California. Riva says there’s a couple more that have signed, but she doesn’t want to release the markets until they’re definitively locked down. Several others are looking at the Express model right now and are in the process of finding locations. Riva expects that going forward, at least in the immediate future, 70 percent of new stores will be Express because of the model’s newness. After COVID settles, she believes the proportion will balance out.
“The reason why I give such a high percentage is because this is really going to draw a lot of multi-unit operators,” Riva says. “The ones that we have in the system now have multiple stores with us, but they're all sit-down. The flexibility of being able to open up five and actually doing an area development agreement is what I think is going to drive those numbers up higher for the Express, at least initially.”
Pizza Factory is in five states on the West Coast, but the brand recently decided to open up franchising to more of the country—in part because of demand for the Express model. Pizza Factory recently announced an agreement to open a sit-down restaurant in Athens, Georgia—the company’s first Southeast location. The store will be operated by Brandon Broadwell, a former Californian who often visited a Pizza Factory owned by Riva, who still serves as a franchisee.
Pizza Factory is looking for more multi-unit operators in Georgia and the Southeast, as well as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington. There are some locations in the pipeline for the home state of California, as well.
“What started this whole thing was if we're going to do [Express], let's just go ahead and open it up too,” Riva says. “We’ve always had interest from folks in other states, but we've always held off and wanted to make sure that we had suppliers and everything. So we've been working on that, trying to make sure that when we do open in other states, that we're ready, and we can support them as well as we do in the states that we’re already in.”
The Express model is yet another option among Pizza Factory’s list of choices for potential franchisees. For its traditional dine-in locations, Pizza Factory offers new-build or conversion prototypes ranging from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. The larger end of the spectrum includes an arcade area, banquet room, and big-screen TVs. The chain prides itself on that type of flexibility. The 42-year-old pizza brand has never been cookie cutter, especially since it often goes after second-generation locations. Every store comes with similar proprietary elements so customers know it’s Pizza Factory, but the chain works hard to adapt and project a local, pizzeria atmosphere.
Pizza Factory has seen success in this endeavor. Riva recalls reading the review of one customer who said he picks Pizza Factory over any corporate brand. Of course, Riva’s first thought was, “Oh my God, he doesn’t even know that we’re franchise. How do I not burst this guy's bubble and not turn him off now, but at the same time tell him thank you?”