Three University of Texas alums—one a former aerospace engineer and two graduates of the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris—open their first Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint franchise in Austin, Texas, on December 13. The restaurant is located at 5601 Brodie Lane Suite 1200A. To celebrate the newest Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint opening, Uncle Maddio’s will serve free 9-inch, any-three-topping, fully customizable pizzas to all customers in line from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on opening day. One patron in line will be awarded free pizza for a year.

As a thank you to the local community for welcoming the new Uncle Maddio’s location, the Austin restaurant will donate a portion of the proceeds on Monday, December 15, to the Sustainable Food Center as part of its Green Tables initiative. The Green Tables is a farm-to-fork initiative linking urban and rural farms and gardens to school, restaurant, and kitchen tables—an initiative that speaks to Uncle Maddio’s dedication to serving the freshest ingredients.

“We are so grateful for all of the community encouragement we have received as we open our first Uncle Maddio’s and we really wanted to give back to local Austin residents,” says Emily Stephens, franchisee. “We thought the best way to do that was through our charity partnership with the Sustainable Food Center, and of course by offering free pizza on opening day.”

The Austin location is the first of five units planned to open in the Lone Star state by franchise partners Stewart Geyer, Janie Stephens, and Emily Stephens. The team plans to open additional restaurants in Waco and Dallas by the end of 2015. Stewart, a former Lockheed Martin engineer-turned-entrepreneur, partnered with Le Cordon Bleu Paris graduates Janie Stephens and Emily Stephens to bring the top franchise to Austin and throughout Texas.

“Uncle Maddio’s create-your-own pizza concept is just what students and residents of Austin are craving,” Geyer says. “As Texas alumni ourselves, Janie, Emily, and I know what residents want, and we can’t wait for them to create their own pizza and experience the Uncle Maddio’s ‘Served with Love’ philosophy.”

Uncle Maddio’s offers a made-from-scratch 9-inch individual pizza with up to three toppings for $7.99. Guests choose one of three crusts, including whole-wheat and gluten-free options, and have the choice of 48 toppings—six homemade sauces, 27 vegetables, and 15 meats.Guests can also order one of the chain’s chef-prepared pizzas for $8.99, along with take-and-bake options for the Uncle Maddio’s experience at home.

The menu also features create-your-own salads and signature salads, such as Greek, Tuscan Antipasto, and Santa Fe, all with homemade dressings. Toasted panini sandwiches round out the Italian-style menu.

For those with dietary restrictions or specifications, Uncle Maddio’s serves up a huge selection of healthful options like whole-wheat and gluten-free crusts, hormone-free chicken, fresh local vegetables, Daiya vegan cheese, and organic greens.

“The high-quality ingredients and made-from-scratch menu attracted Janie and Emily to the franchise,” Geyer says. “Their superior chef training in Paris sets a pretty high standard and Uncle Maddio’s far exceeds that.”

Texas is just one of the latest additions to the fastest-growing fast-casual pizza brand, which will double in size in 2014 and again in 2015. The Uncle Maddio’s Pizza Joint franchise operation is expanding with 225 units in development. Key expansion markets include Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Fast Casual, Growth, News, Pizza, Uncle Maddio's