Matt Andrew is no stranger to the limited-service world. He spent eight years on the management team at Moe’s Southwest Grill, giving him the background necessary to create Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint. But there was one major hurdle to overcome before opening his own quick-serve pizza restaurant.

“The barrier with pizza was cooking time,” Andrew says. “At Uncle Maddio’s, we’re cooking food to order. People didn’t think it could be done, but we put together some proprietary equipment for our operation, coupled with some new technology, and we got the time from when you order to the time you get your pizza to seven minutes.”

But Andrew didn’t rush to get Uncle Maddio’s open. He spent all of 2008 in a test kitchen putting together the menu. “We launched the first store in January 2009 and ran that store for two years to make sure our systems were perfected,” he says. “Then we started franchising.”

There are 18 Uncle Maddio’s locations open in 10 Southern states, with 140 more in development. Eight to 10 additional units will be open by the end of 2013, and another 30 are planned for 2014, Andrew says.

Andrew says Uncle Maddio’s is finding success because consumers like customization, especially when it comes to pizza. “People have been sharing pizza for 100 years,” he says. “Now, finally, you don’t have to share with your sister or your mom and dad. You can get exactly what you want on your individual pizza.”

Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint

Founder: Matt Andrew

HQ: Atlanta

Year Started: 2009

Annual Sales: Undisclosed

Total Units: 18

Franchise units:17

A 9-inch individual pizza with up to three toppings sells for $6.99 at Uncle Maddio’s. As guests proceed down the assembly line, there are 48 toppings to choose from, with six sauces, 27 vegetables, and 15 meats. There are also three dough choices: white, wheat, or gluten free. Those who want more than three toppings can pay extra for each additional topping or order one of the chef-prepared pizzas, which have several toppings and sell for $7.99.

That menu includes the BBQ Chicken, topped with a barbecue and tomato-basil sauce, a Mozzarella and Cheddar cheese blend, grilled chicken, bacon, red onions, corn, and cilantro. There’s also the Spicy Italian pizza, which features tomato-basil sauce, Mozzarella, spicy Italian sausage, red onions, mushrooms, banana peppers, and fresh basil.

While considered a quick-serve restaurant, Uncle Maddio’s has taken the level of service up a notch, using washable plates and flatware and a service model that delivers food to customers’ tables, Andrew says.

“What customers love about Uncle Maddio’s is that there are a tremendous number of options, and that means they can eat as healthy as they want,” he says.

Uncle Maddio’s purchases hormone-free, free-range chicken; has fresh local vegetables delivered daily; and opts for organic spinach and greens. In addition, eating gluten free is a simple option at Uncle Maddio’s.

“We offer a gluten-free crust,” Andrew says. “And most of our toppings are gluten free. It’s amazing to me how popular eating gluten free has become, even for non-celiac people.”

Uncle Maddio’s menu also offers eight signature salads and eight toasted panini sandwiches. Customers can also build their own custom salads and sandwiches. “With pizza and salads, about half of our customers build their own and half order chef-created selections,” he says. “With the paninis, most people order the signature sandwiches.”

Signature salads include Greek, Chicken Caesar, and Santa Fe, which is made with mixed greens, grilled chicken, black bean corn salsa, bacon, Cheddar, croutons, cilantro, and homemade chipotle ranch dressing. Signature sandwich choices include Orchard Chicken Salad, Tuscan Meatball, and Maddio’s Steak and Cheese.

Andrew says pizza accounts for about 70 percent of food sales at Uncle Maddio’s; salads are 20 percent and panini sandwiches make up 10 percent. The individual check average is about $8.50. “We’ve designed the entire menu to hit those price points,” he says. The chain also offers catering with make-your-own or signature pizzas, salads, and sandwiches. Catering accounts for 10–15 percent of sales, Andrew says.

Uncle Maddio’s was designed to be a place where families and communities gather, he says. To that end, each Uncle Maddio’s unit hosts Art Camp every Saturday for kids ages three to 13. Andrew says it provides parents the opportunity to enjoy a meal and talk with other parents while the kids are occupied with something creative.

But young children aren’t the only age group that likes Uncle Maddio’s, Andrew says. “It’s an instant hit with high school and college students because it’s their pizza place,” he says, “as opposed to the place their parents took them to.”

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Emerging Concepts, Fast Casual, Growth, Pizza, Story, Uncle Maddio's