Eleven new Firenza Pizza fast-casual create-your-own-pizza franchise locations are scheduled to open across the country in the next six months, following the April merger of Firenza Pizza and Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria. The openings will nearly double the current 14-store footprint of the combined businesses, increase the geographic penetration from eight states to 12, and mark the first stage of a rapid expansion that includes nearly 100 other units in development.
The first new location is scheduled to open its doors in Los Angeles in July, becoming the chain’s fourth store in California. Also on the 2017 roster are locations in Houston and Dallas, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; Secaucus, New Jersey; Charlotte, Raleigh, and Kernersville, North Carolina; Lexington South Carolina; Beaverton, Oregon; and Boise, Idaho.
All new units will operate under the Firenza Pizza brand and incorporate Persona’s award-winning pizza, salad dressing and sauce recipes.
“Joining forces with Persona is accelerating the process of achieving the critical mass we need to build our brand and secure the best store locations for our franchisees,” says Firenza co-founder and CEO Dave Wood. “The fast-casual pizza industry is clearly undergoing consolidation, and we are positioning ourselves to be one of the players left standing once the shakeout is complete.”
That effort is being advanced by a management team that has a combined 75+ years of experience in the pizza industry as well as a menu created by World Pizza Champion Glenn Cybulski, the company’s Executive Chef and Pizzaiolo.
Wood’s 35 years in the sector includes ownership of 17 Domino’s franchises and multiple corporate awards for franchise excellence.
Dave Baer, Firenza co-founder and a 25-year industry veteran, was also an award-winning Domino’s franchisee and is now chief operating officer of the merged Firenza/Persona company.
Cybulski, who has owned multiple restaurants and co-founded Persona with Joe Baumel in 2012, holds 119 national and international culinary awards including Best Pizza in North America honors at the World Pizza Competition in Italy.
Baumel, who is now a member of the Firenza operations team, is a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America who served as Persona’s CEO and director of quality control.
“Build-your-own format restaurants have been increasing sales twice as fast as made-to-order fast-casual brands, but only those with a combination of culinary excellence, operational knowhow and market penetration will survive,” Cybulski says. “Combining the strengths and experience of both the Persona and Firenza organizations gives us an opportunity for growth that we would not have had individually and a path to establishing a firm foothold in a highly competitive space.”