ATHENS, Georgia– When Drew French was a kid, he wasn’t fond of sharing his pizza. And who could blame him, really? Anchovies and black olives aren’t for everyone.
Like every other pizza lover, French simply wanted to enjoy his own pie, his own way. This fast-casual innovator today believes that you should have your pie your way. Therein lies the origin of Your Pie – a personal, build-it-yourself, quick-service pizza restaurant concept.
French never set out to create one of the most entrepreneurial innovations in the history of the pizza industry. But that’s exactly what he did. His long-established love of cooking naturally drew him to the restaurant industry, and he worked his way through college in the kitchens of some of the best-known franchise brands.
That his vision for Your Pie was prompted by a visit to Italy only adds to the flavor of his rich story. While on his honeymoon visiting his wife’s family in Ischia off the coast of Naples, French couldn’t escape the delicious brick oven pizza made on every corner and in the backyards of his new family and friends.
“Everywhere we went in Ischia, the pizza was amazing,” French said. “It was the kind of pizza you just couldn’t put out of your mind. It was the pizza that influenced the creation of the Your Pie menu, and allowed us to tap into some of our family’s favorite recipes.”
But what truly amazed him was how quickly the brick ovens could produce an artisan, customized pie. It was while French basked in the aroma of Ischia’s brick ovens that he sketched out the concept for a build-it-yourself pizza concept on a napkin. He had no idea that his rendering would revolutionize the way that a generation looks at quick-serve pizza and fast-casual dining.
It was French’s vision that quality, selection of toppings and speed could come together, and that the brick oven was the missing piece to the puzzle. French knew that a flavorful pizza made from brick ovens and delivered quickly would win customers’ hearts and create a new dining experience.
“Nobody was thinking brick oven for fast-casual,” French said. “That’s what makes Your Pie unique, and so consistently good.”
Less than six years from the launch of his first Your Pie, French’s concept has taken the industry by storm and elevated the art of pizza making. His ingenuity and innovation have sparked a number of copycats to attempt a knock-off of Your Pie. Some run their pizza through toasters or across conveyors, which doesn’t come close to delivering the taste of Your Pie. Despite the “growth” in this segment, the Your Pie quality never has been duplicated. Commitments to quality product and a proven process are the Your Pie brand’s key differentiators.
“Pizza makers talk about using the ‘best-quality’ ingredients,” French said. “But you’ve eaten those pizzas, and you know their quality standards. Our thinking is that quality is our only standard. At Your Pie, we want everyone to have exactly the pizza they’d like to eat, and we want each pie to provide a great experience.”
In 2008, at 24, French brought the concept and its business plan to a local bank. The bank said no. But his father said yes. Shortly thereafter, French opened his first store in Athens, Ga., and had opened two others nearby in the University of Georgia’s hometown within two years. With its concept proved and refined, Your Pie today has 18 restaurants located throughout the southeastern United States. The company plans to add eight franchise restaurants in 2013. Opting for smart growth to preserve the quality of the brand, French’s goal is to identify multi-unit operators to join the franchise system and scale from the regional base already in place.
With a franchise fee of $25,000 and total investment averaging $350,000, a Your Pie franchise includes pre-opening development assistance for site selection and analysis, lease negotiation, architectural layout and restaurant design, comprehensive restaurant build out, four weeks of training, and full marketing and communications support.
“Without question, we aspire to be a globally admired brand,” French said. “But we’ve seen plenty of ways not to grow a pizza franchise, and we’re committed to best practices. We will become a national brand in the next two to five years, and believe we have the wherewithal to become an international brand in the next 10 years.”
The path to that growth runs through French’s kitchen, where in addition to creating new combinations of pizzas, fresh-grilled Panini sandwiches, salads and Italian-inspired gelato for dessert, the emphasis is on constant improvement and raising the bar on quality fast-casual dining.
“We’re not trying to copy anyone,” French said. “There’s an art to making pizza, and we’re committed to the artisan approach and customization. I believe that Your Pie will maintain a competitive advantage over everyone making pizza – whether in the quick-serve or traditional space – by doing what we do best. We just do pizza better than anyone else.”
ABOUT YOUR PIE
Your Pie is the world’s originator of the quick-serve, brick-oven, customized personal pizza concept. Your Pie owner and originator Drew French tapped his restaurant background and knowledge of the conveyor-driven quick-serve and married it with brick oven technology to create the highest quality pizza available at incredible speed. Drawing from family recipes from the island of Ischia, Your Pie uses only fresh ingredients, homemade pizza sauces and salad dressings, and offers vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free pizzas, as well as traditional pizzas. Customers who dine at Your Pie have come to expect a custom-made and delicious pizza delivered to their table well within 10 minutes of ordering – the definition of fast casual. As a result, the Your Pie brand is synonymous with success and a fan favorite of families in the communities it serves. For more information about Your Pie or franchising opportunities, please visit www.yourpie.com.