Industry News | June 30, 2015 | QSR Exclusive Brief

NFL Star and Paisano’s CEO Bring Speed to Pizza Scene

image used with permission.

In the morning, Washington Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon is up early, training his mind and body to anticipate anything—be it a touchdown pass or an enormous defensive lineman. After practice, he continues to plan for what’s ahead—even beyond his football career. And while he still works on perfecting his spiral, it’s not just with a football anymore, but also with a spinning round of pizza dough.  

After working as the face of Virginia-based Paisano’s Pizza, 28-year-old Garcon paired up with the pizzeria’s CEO Fouad Qreitem after Qreitem shared his vision for a new, fast-casual pizza concept without the expansion limitations of Paisano’s extensive menu. The new concept, named SpinFire pizza, allows guests to customize their topping choices as they walk down the line—after which their creation is slid into the store’s massive, 7,000-pound, classic Neapolitan oven and cooked in an impressive 90 seconds. Garcon was confident in Qreitem, his idea, and the consistency and quality he had seen and tasted at Paisano’s Pizza, so he was all in. Qreitem was confident in the future growth of the sector, and he knew Garcon would be a good partner not only because of his notoriety, but also because of his absolute dedication.

“He’s the most driven person I’ve ever met in my life, and I know people who run thousand-store chains,” Qreitem says. “He’s the kind of guy that just basically wants to know and learn everything he can, so for him, learning the pizza business was not hard.”

Garcon may not have a background in business, but his commitment to the restaurant’s success is not just about pr. When he’s in town, he’s in the store almost every day interacting with employees and customers, and when his football career takes him travelling, he’s keeping a watchful eye on the store’s cameras and stats, making sure all is running smoothly. On top of it all, Garcon says his genuine love for the food and pride in its quality keeps him fully engaged in the business.

Garcon can thank Qreitem for carefully crafting the ingredients and preparation that keep the compliments flowing from his fans and teammates. SpinFire’s unique blend of classic Neapolitan and New York-style pizza is the result of some extensive product testing on the part of Qreitem and his children. “Originally, we intended on going fully Neapolitan,” he says. “I started travelling the world to see all of the Neapolitan pizza places out there. Toward the end though, I started taking my kids with me, and I found out that they hated the pizza!” The black, blistered crust and char marks typical of the Neapolitan style did not, it seemed, have universal appeal, and left his kids asking for just a “regular” slice of pizza. Not willing to lose kids and their parents, Qreitem began experimenting with how to stay authentic while bringing in more mainstream styles. After altering the cheese, flour type, and water content, he finally found the winning recipe.  

“It was like the fourth quarter and we switched courses—aiming right between New York-style and Neapolitan—which turned out to be a really nice combination. The ultimate testimonial is that now, at home, when my kids want pizza they ask for SpinFire.”

Being quick on his feet has been paying off—SpinFire has two Virginia locations open and bustling, with major expansion plans for the future including growth both domestically and internationally. The team plans to have two more Virgina locations open by the end of the year, and six stores are already planned to open in the United Arab Emirates. Garcon says he sees SpinFire’s fast-casual style not only as the future of dining, but as the future of his career as a businessman.

“My football career helps by keeping me prepared for anything,” Garcon says. “I never expected to be going into the pizza business, but I was inspired by this great idea that I really think is the future of the industry, and I feel like I can counter whatever comes and be successful at it.”

By Emily Byrd

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