Marc Able owns the five-unit PieWorks Pizza by Design, headquartered in Shreveport, Louisiana. The company has recently stepped up franchising efforts after streamlining its operations and expects to open two new stores next year.
PT: Your name alone implies your pizzas function as a work of art. How is that carried through to the product?
MA: We’re specialty pizza, and we have more than 60 different toppings. We used a corporate chef for several years in the ‘90s to create a lot of different taste profiles, working not only presentation but also textures, colors and taste. We see “works” as two different things: artwork and (the) works of overwhelming variety.
PT: You offer unusual toppings such as alligator, crawfish and –– gulp –– hot dogs. We have to ask: how well do these sell?
MA: It depends on where we are. In North Carolina, we might sell 220 pounds of alligator a year or a year-and-a-half. In Louisiana, we might sell 20 pounds in two weeks. Crawfish, of course, is a big seller in Louisiana. We sell a lot of crawfish. Alligator is not really as popular as it used to be and I’m not really sure why, but crawfish is steadily becoming an ingredient of choice, especially in Louisiana.
PT: Where most pizzerias might offer one or two seafood pies, your menu boasts five. Why so many?
ME: Uniqueness, first of all. A lot of people offer seafood, and we’re a Louisiana-based concept –– it’s very high in food culture here. We have a long history of food taste and culinary sophistication. Seafood just seems to go with what we do and who we are.
PT: Pieworks sits at No. 71 on Pizza Today’s Hot 100 Independents list. How have you used that in your marketing?
MA: We use it in our franchising efforts and when we open a new restaurant. We have a number of different awards that we’ve won, and we like to list them, especially when we’re introducing ourselves to a new market. We use the Hot 100 especially when we’re promoting franchises.
PT: We know Pieworks has stepped up franchising –– why now, and what is your expected growth?
MA: We’ve been around since 1990. Although we’ve been offering franchises since 2002, we really haven’t gone after it like we’re planning on doing in the next 12 to 24 months. Primarily, I had felt that we didn’t have a strong enough base. We have fi ve locations now, and three of them are our new prototype. Just now, I think we’re getting a strong enough base to support franchisees regardless of where they are. We’ve had to evolve our concept over the years –– part in the changing times, and part to become more contemporary. We look at offering franchises as a way to grow as our concept evolves.