This year’s opening keynote speakers will be Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson of Pizzeria Locale. In 2011, the duo opened their first store as a full-service restaurant in Boulder, Colorado. Steve Ells of Chipotle Mexican Grill was one of their customers. The three became friends and decided to work together to restructure Pizzeria Locale as one of the earliest fast-casual restaurant concepts in the pizza industry.
The partners were determined to change the expectation of fast-casual pizza by refining service to evolve into a new hybrid category called fast-fine dining, or more accurately, convenience with fine touches. To achieve their goal they focused on customer service and not dough skills. They contend it’s easy to teach dough skills, but not so easy to inspire hospitality-based service, which starts with a courteous, ambitious, intelligent and motivated high-energy staff.
To that end each unit and each employee is expected to be scored against a series of benchmarks. Customer service is broken down into four categories: great food (hand-stretched dough, fresh ingredients, etc.); flow (sequence of service); hospitality (who is your patron?); and ambiance (décor, cleanliness, lighting, music, etc.). In this view, the way to create fast-fine experience is to strategically focus on the customer — from the time they are greeted when they walk through the front door to when they leave.
What also separates Pizzeria Locale from the competition is the 100-percent whole-wheat crust, which is light and chewy with a buttery taste. Today, less than 1 percent of chefs and bakers in America are baking with 100-percent whole-wheat flour. After nearly a year of hard work and research, not to mention a significant financial investment, they’ve created pizza dough that makes them proud. The ingredients consist of only flour, water, yeast and salt.
The basis for their concept was their desire to make fast food the way it was made in 19th century Italy, back when pizza was considered a street food and was beloved by its patrons because it was cheap, quick and resulted in gastronomic ecstasy.
As with Chipotle, Pizzeria Locale doesn’t intend to pursue franchising, but instead will follow the same expansion strategy — first create demand, then determine whether the economic model is succeeding as a return on investment. The final step is to look at the team to determine who can step up and lead a new unit.
I think you’ll find Pizzeria Locale’s story fascinating — an inspiring opening act on the busy first exhibit hall day at Pizza Expo.
Group Show Director
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