Australians' love for pie goes beyond cherry and lemon meringue, a fact not lost on Wayne Homschek, the man behind Pie Face, a fast casual chain with more than 70 locations throughout the continent. (Click here for a slideshow of Pie Face photos.)
Hoping that Americans will soon want a piece of the action, Homschek, an Atlanta native who relocated to Australia 20 years ago, and his partner, Betty Fong, expanded the concept to the States this year, choosing NYC as its test location. The duo opened the first of two 24-hour New York restaurants next to the Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway and West 53rd in Manhattan. Six more N.Y. locations will open by mid-2013.
Yes, you can have pie for lunch
What makes this concept different from those serving the standard burritos and burgers is that its main cuisine comes in pie form. Aussies purchase mini pies to go in the same fashion as Americans often pick up a slice of pizza. The non-dessert pies known as "savory pies" are similar to a small pot pie with a fluffier crust. The chain serves them one of two ways — in a cardboard sleeve, so customers can eat them in the car or while walking — or as "stacks" for those dining in. Stacks are pies topped with smash (mashed potatoes and peas) and gravy; customers use a fork to eat them.
Savory pie flavors include barbeque, Tandoori vegetable, Mexican, Thai chicken curry, chicken mushroom, steak and the Australian favorite, mince beef and tomato, each created by François Cointrel, a French-born and trained- pastry chef who added his crust recipe to the Australian comfort food. Mini dessert pies are also available and come in seven sweet flavors, including lemon, chocolate, apple, cherry, blueberry, pecan and pear and ricotta. The chain also serves sandwiches, wraps, baked goods and breakfast items.
"We recognize that this is a pretty audacious move, taking an Aussie icon, the humble meat pie to the Big Apple," Homschek said.
He and Fong, however, are confident that New Yorkers will be impressed.
"We think they will love Pie Face just as much as Aussies do because of the high-quality food, good value and of course those cute little faces on every pie," Fong said. (Each pie has a specific face denoting its contents).
To celebrate Thanksgiving this year, the chain is selling the Thanksgiving stack, packed with roast turkey and stuffing, topped with mashed sweet potatoes and a drizzle of cranberry sauce.
Aussies love their coffee concoctions just as much as Americans, so Pie Face is also hoping to grab some of that market share with its Wake Me Up! Coffee. The chain's signature Australian roast coffee comes in a range of strengths from decaf, which it calls Still Asleep!, and a softer blend called Open My Eyes!, to the strongest espresso blend called Kick My Arse.
"New Yorkers are learning to order coffee the American way, too, with the 'Flat White' — espresso with steamed milk — and the 'Long Black' — the Australian version of the Americano," said Chris Sieger, chief strategy officer of Pie Face USA. (Watch the video below to hear more from Sieger.)
Grabbing a piece of the pie
Steve Wynn, the founder, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas, recently purchased $15 million worth of Pie Face shares. That number represents about 43 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of Pie Face USA on a fully-diluted basis.
"We could not have asked for a better endorsement of our brand and our potential in both the United States and globally," said Homschek, who plans to eventually launch a national roll-out in other key markets across the United States.
"Having met the Pie Face USA management team recently and having visited their first store in New York, I came to the conclusion that they were bright people with a bright concept," Wynn said. "I look forward to backing them as they expand throughout Manhattan and across the United States."
Cherryh Butler /
Cherryh Butler has been a reporter for nearly 10 years, writing on a variety of topics ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining FastCasual.com as editor, she oversaw KioskMarketplace.com and PizzaMarketplace.com and contributed to RetailCustomerExperience.com. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. www