2010 January: Five Questions

Peppers Pizzeria was founded in 1997 as a counter service operation with a simple menu. Today, the company has three upscale operations as well as separate bars adjacent to two of its restaurants.

Q. You have an eclectic menu that refl ects Louisiana’s unique culture. How do items like the Jambalaya Pizza and Gambino’s Muffaletta Pizza sell?

A: They sell well. I fi nd that, typically, when it comes to family dining, families go for traditional pizzas, whether it be Italian sausage or pepperoni. But, I think some of those unique offerings is where our differentiation is versus a regional or national chain. Some of those offerings … are unique to our establishments and they do well for us. It gives our brand some unique identity by having those on the menu.

Q. The Piazza Bar opened in 2000 and was an immediate success. Does this separate bar cut into your restaurants’ beverage sales?

A: I find that having a separate bar or a bar that’s secluded from the dining room increases sales not only in the bar but in the restaurant as well. It’s certainly a separate area and when it comes to family dining or dining for adults, I think those two crowds typically don’t mix too well. Having a separate area certainly is an asset. Our parents still enjoy a cocktail or one of our beers on tap in the dining room.

Q. How does the bar business affect overall sales in the pizzeria? Do you offer extended hours to accommodate the entertainment crowd?

A: At one of our locations, our food side stays open until 3 a.m. … We have a tremendous amount of sales between ten o’clock and three in the morning. It’s either people who have been at some type of social event and have missed the normal restaurant hours around town or people who have been out in the bars and want to grab a bite to eat before going home.

Q. Being on the gulf, how were you affected by Hurricane Katrina?

A: It’s one of those things that it’s been a blessing, but it’s something that we’ve had to work through. It’s brought economic boost to the region. There’s been a lot of money that’s come into this region in the last fi ve years not only from Katrina but also the storms we had last year. We were pretty much Ground Zero for Gustav. We have one location that’s been affected by (the storms) because there are people moving out of that low-lying area where that location is. It did phenomenal in the months after the storm was over with all the insurance money and all the extra people in the community doing repair work, but the contractors have kind of moved out. Now, there’s a slump.

Q. Any future plans for growth?

A: We are actually opening another restaurant concept here in Thibodaux, and we’re going to get a little more diversity in our company and we’re going to do more catering. Catering is a business I’ve been in for a lot of years and it’s something we’re going to get back into. We have this new facility here with 11,000 square feet to use for banquet space and catering. … Right now I guess you could say we’re being conservative aggressive.