May 18, 2015 |

Conversation with Michael Lastoria, &pizza, Washington, DC

By Pizza Today


fast casual pizzaMichael lets us in on &pizza’s fast-casual concept

 

&pizza
Washington, D.C.

&pizza recently made Thrillist’s “11 Chains Ready to Blow Up in 2015” list. In February, the fast-casual pizza company announced it had received a $10-million investment for growth and expansion.

 

We created &pizza because we wanted to take one of our favorite pastimes and reinvent it. Keep the familiarity, and reimagine the rest. We wanted to create a contemporary, cutting edge experience that our guests and our tribe could come to love. One where pizza is still the focal point, but where it serves as more: the vehicle for connecting people who think differently. People who live for experience.

But more than that, we created &pizza to make a neighborhood pizza joint that actually reflects the neighborhood. Not just says it does. Because we wanted to be the first brand that maintains the intimacy of your local shop no matter how big we get.

It wasn’t about entering the fast-casual segment but rather doing something different with pizza. Fast-casual is an industry that has gained momentum because of the hard work and innovation of a group of smart, dedicated people thinking differently about what a modern day, quick service concept could be. And we’re excited to be a part of it, but it was never about joining a particular market segment for us.

fast casual pizza

Steve Salis (left) and Michael Lastoria, owners of &pizza in Washington, DC

On attribution to the pizza company’s growth…Two things above all else; our tribe members and guests. We have built a brand with an incredible amount of guest affinity and loyalty. They support all things &. That, coupled with the accomplishments and dedication of our tribe, has enabled us to continue to expand. We offer our most loyal guests a & tattoo, on us. Not temporary. Real ink. We also offer it to all of our tribe members. You’d think people would look at us like we’re crazy, and some do, but we don’t mind that. Not when more than 10 tribe members have already signed their allegiance to the brand, in ink, on their skin. It’s really a testament to what they, the tribe, have helped create here. More than just a brand. Something else.

On recent $10-million investment…An investment like that allows us, most importantly, to focus on our tribe members — helping them develop internally, and growing the tribe from beyond the walls of &pizza. It also allows us to expand our reach. We want to preach the &pizza gospel both deeper within the city limits of the nation’s capital and continue to grow in key markets. This is just the beginning.

We are the proverbial outlier having made a commitment to focusing on company owned and operated stores. We’ll continue to grow organically and focus will remain on thinking differently and delivering on truly unique experiences within our four walls. We don’t want to be like any other brand, or categorized as any one thing. Everything we do, we try to do it our way, and nobody else’s.

&pizza_Maverick#andcharity means doing things that help strengthen foundations that need support, not only for the moment, but moving forward into the future. We work with local organizations to help build up the communities around us so that they can live improved lives today and tomorrow. And as we grow as a brand and a tribe, we plan on continuing to focus on the communities we serve. It’s not about any one place or one deed. It’s about building something up where it needs building.