Russo’s New York Pizzeria, the fast-casual Italian restaurant, recently opened at The Shops at 3 Corners, 8236 Kirby Dr., Suite 160, in Houston.

Local resident Asif Malik, an experienced hospitality industry entrepreneur, opened the Russo’s New York Pizzeria location directly adjacent to NRG Stadium to serve local residents, businesses, and thousands of hungry football fans.

“From the moment customers walk in, they know they’ve come somewhere special. They’re getting a true slice of New York on Houston’s southwest side,” Malik says. “Everything is made from fresh ingredients. From the giant slices of pizza and calzones to the pasta, these are traditional Italian dishes served just the way our guests have come to expect from Russo’s.”

The Kirby Drive New York Pizzeria is the 20th Russo’s Restaurant to open in the Houston area. The expansion signals the continuation of significant franchise growth for the brand throughout the U.S. and beyond. The company is advancing its strategic growth plan in the beginning of 2015, adding 20–30 restaurants in the next three years. In addition to the U.S. markets, Russo’s has already taken off internationally, with multiple locations in the Middle East. Early discussions are also underway with developers in Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, and China. The 12-month period from late-2013 to today represents the brand’s most aggressive growth phase.

Highlighting the performance of Russo’s New York Pizzeria, and its upscale sister brand Russo’s Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen, is the nearly 24 percent average net profit, which includes average food costs of less than 21 percent, a figure well below the national average for the fast-casual pizza/Italian sector. Additionally, the brands’ average unit volume surpasses $1 million. The most recent Russo’s opening saw weekly sales revenues between $35,000 and $60,000. Russo’s branded restaurants are profitable during their first year of operations.

For proved restaurant operations teams and driven entrepreneurs interested in pizza franchise opportunities, most commercial loans require a low down payment of 20–30 percent of the total investment to launch a restaurant. Moreover, Russo’s works with a collection of preferred third party financing sources to support its franchisees.

“Opening our 20th location in the Houston DMA is a momentous occasion for Russo’s Restaurants,” says CEO Anthony Russo, a formally trained chef who opened his first Russo’s New York Pizzeria in 1992. “We couldn’t be happier about carrying on the Russo’s tradition with a new restaurant in Houston and doing so with a team as gifted as Asif’s. With their qualifications, Russo’s is continuing to build a bright future in our home Houston market.”

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Pizza, Russo's