January 1, 2017 |

Conversation with John Rayyan, Papa Ray’s, Chicago

By Pizza Today


Papa Ray’s Pizza & Wings 

Chicago, Illinois

Papa Ray’s Pizza & Wings was founded by the Rayyan brothers in 2009. They used the name “Ray” in honor of their father. With four counter-service locations in Chicago, Papa Rays is known for its thin, hand-tossed pizza and its Monster slices.

Co-owners John (left) and George Rayyan

Co-owners John (left) and George Rayyan

Papa Ray’s Pizza & Wings was founded by the Rayyan brothers in 2009. They used the name “Ray” in honor of their father. With four counter-service locations in Chicago, Papa Rays is known for its thin, hand-tossed pizza and its Monster slices.

John lets us in on Papa Ray’s concept and its monster slices

Papa Ray’s Pizza & Wings operates four restaurants (two more coming soon) and are serving pizza in the Chicago neighborhoods of Uptown, and Logan Square, and also the suburbs of Palatine and Carol Stream. We have two new locations that are set to open in the next two months. Our goal from day one has always been to follow the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) system with regards to our menu items and growth. Our pizza dough and homemade sauce are made daily in each of our stores. Our Wisconsin mozzarella is shredded daily. Our crust is not cooked on a conveyor but only on traditional deck ovens.

Our monster slices are an above average size, about 12-inch long, and get put into 12-inch boxes. They are fresh, tasty and famous. The average store sells 200 slices per day. We offer cheese, sausage, pepperoni or bacon. Additional toppings can be added per the customer request. It’s always refreshing to see the look on our customers’ face(s) the first time they order a slice.

Key to growth — We believe in slow and solid growth. We have been careful to choose the right locations and people we work with.

The key to our expansion has been heavily marketing to local areas. We focus on retaining our current customers rather than focus on getting new ones. These customers then spread things by word of mouth. Our expansion is slow and steady – we grow with keeping sturdy foundations.

With location selections, we focus on acquiring locations that are in ‘blue collar’ demographics — not so much high-end areas. We focus more on density where both parents work.

When it comes to our concept, we make sure we have fresh slices all day, everyday. This alone keeps everyone wowed. Another thing is unlike most pizzerias we have rib tips and homemade mac and cheese. This separates us from other pizzerias.

With company culture, it isn’t easy retaining great team members; however, respect goes a long way. We try to look at things from the employee’s perspective. We try our best to involve them in the decision making process — this often turns an average worker to an extraordinary one.

Offering other menu items like wings and made-to-order mac and cheese — Having a selection of items that go well with pizza is key for growing sales and loyalty. We do not have many items on the menu, but all the items we do have are amazing, simple and go well with pizza.

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