Pizza Inn is rolling out a new fast-casual concept, Pie Five Pizza Co., to appeal to an upscale, urban demographic by creating fresh, made-to-order pies in less than five minutes.
Company executives are hoping that Pie Five, which debuted in Fort Worth, Texas, in June and joins Pizza Inn Express as another Pizza Inn spin-off, will have the company poised to roll in more than one type of dough.
“We wanted to find a way to get a customer good pizza very fast,” says Charlie Morrison, president and CEO of Pizza Inn. “We believe our Pizza Inn product, when made fresh, gives people the best quality, but in the Express it’s not always controlled the best and there’s not a lot of choice.”
John Gordon, chain restaurant analyst at Pacific Management Consulting Group, says that even though pizza may seem like a saturated market, Pie Five could fill a void between the more upscale B.J.’s and California Pizza Kitchen concepts and quick serves like Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Pie Five is “somewhere in the middle in what is hopefully fertile ground,” Gordon says.
Similar to Chipotle or Subway, pizzas at Pie Five are assembled as customers walk through the line. Customers can order from the menu of 10 gourmet pies or customize their own nine-inch pizza.
“We’ve individualized the occasion and given the customer choice, so they get exactly what they want,” Morrison says, noting that Pie Five was in development for roughly nine months. After they move through the line, customers can also add a packaged salad or drink at the register, wrapping the five-minute-or-less experience.
High-speed ovens make the Pie Five experience possible, Morrison says. The restaurant stacks two conveyer-belt convection ovens that can run eight pizzas at one time, baking two pizzas every 20 seconds.
The combination of this technology with customer choice in the fast-casual space is “transformational in the pizza category,” Morrison says. He says the edgy red, white, and black design accents, balanced by the stark industrial décor of corrugated metal and exposed ductwork, turn Pie Five into a destination for the fast-paced urban clientele.
Morrison says Pie Five’s performance has so far exceeded expectations, which fares well for his plan to grow it by 100 restaurants in a year.
“For an unknown brand, it would be impossible,” Gordon says, “but with a corporate parent, a captive franchise base, and an alternate concept, they should be able to make it work.”
By Lori Zanteson