After seven years operating one of the first wood-fired fast casual pizza restaurants in the U.S., the owners of Rochester, Minnesota-based Pi Wood-Fired Pizza have created a new brand to franchise, known as Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza. The Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza brand is the product of a reinvented fast casual pizza model, with the addition of a strong leadership team built for the long haul.
“When we started [in 2009], we aimed to create a fun, unique experience and craft amazing pizzas that appealed to a wide range of tastes,” says the restaurant’s owner, Linda Black. “We do that by getting in the highest quality ingredients. We roast our meats in our wood-fired oven and chop fresh vegetables throughout the day. We don’t even have a freezer. We created a dough with complex flavors and a lighter crust. Our guests can absolutely taste the difference.”
“We offer something truly unique,” Black continues. “We’re a cross between fast casual and sit-down dining but at a fast casual price point.”
Much like crafting a great pizza, a great team of industry experts was assembled to bring the new brand to life. The team seeks to leverage the knowledge and guest affinity gained from Black’s years of perfecting her craft with Pi Wood-Fired Pizza, and use that experience to develop a brand in Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza that will stand out in an exploding industry.
The Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza leadership team includes Black, who serves as its president and chief operating officer, and her sister, Denise Villeneuve, who is the chief people officer. Rounding out the team is consumer marketing executive, Matt Mongoven, who serves as chief executive officer and is also their life-long friend.
“I knew from years of experience in other industries that we needed to identify the strongest partners to help bring Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza to life,” says Mongoven, who spent over 20 years in the U.S. and internationally developing some of the world’s most recognized and successful financial services products. “We knew we couldn’t do this alone. To build a rock solid franchise business, we had to have the best franchise experts, attorneys, architects and marketing agency, just to name a few. We were never going to do this halfway, as our future franchisees and guests deserve the best. I can say without a doubt, our franchisees will be the most supported and empowered in any industry. We are poised for success and I’m extremely proud of the company that we’ve built.”
With a unique mixture of fast casual service, quality ingredients, the smolder of oak wood, and the delivery of a sit-down restaurant, Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza aims to leverage its modern twist on the traditional cuisine. Even the pizza names, such as “Re-Pete” and “The Twist,” reflect the creative mindset and playful brand.
“We spent years creating our philosophy that the people that visit us are guests, not customers. We know that our guests have a choice in where to spend their hard-earned money and we take that very seriously,” Black adds.
Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza applies this same passion to its brand. “We all love to have fun with our guests. We’ll sprinkle flour on the counter and draw something for the kids, and everyone loves to watch pizza bake in the wood-fired oven. We have an annual contest where our guests design that year’s pizza box,” Mongoven says. “We’re also big believers in supporting our local communities. We make pizza, but we also do our best to make people happy in other ways.”
Mongoven and team announced the availability of Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza franchises for sale earlier this month with big growth plans. “We have a proven model for a great wood-fired pizza restaurant and have developed a stellar model to support our franchisees,” Mongoven explains. “We are hungry to be different, and so are our future franchisees and guests.”