Editor's note: This is just one story in a recurring series that features interviews with top-level execs in the fast casual industry. If you would like us to feature a specific exec, please make your request in an email to Cherryh Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pizza may be one of the newer menu items to pop up as a fast casual concept, but the double father-son executive team at PizzaRev that's opened three units in the last year believe they're on to something.
CMO Jeff Zuckerman and his father, Co-CEO Irv Zuckerman, alongside Co-CEO Rodney Eckerman and his son, Nicholas Eckermann, COO, launched their first location in April of last year in Northridge, Calif. Just a few months later, they followed it up with a second in Studio City and a third in Woodland Hills.
Guests at each restaurant craft their own thin and crispy pizzas, selecting from more than 30 ingredient offerings. Each pizza, which costs less than $8, bakes in a Woodstone open-flamed stone hearth oven and is ready in under 3 minutes.
Irv Zuckerman gave us a little background on not only his concept but why he thinks fast casual pizza restaurants are gaining popularity.
Why do you think your concept has seen such growth?
Zuckerman: PizzaRev has grown quickly for a number of reasons. We offer a very high-quality, 11-inch thin crust pizza where the guests can view and choose from over 30 of their favorite toppings without an additional charge. They can enjoy their pizza knowing it will not weigh them or their wallet down. The environment is designed for comfort and speed of delivery with each pizza being served in less than 3 minutes.
Q:Why do you think the trend of fast casual pizza concepts are gaining popularity?
Zuckerman: Pizza is a "go-to" entree, so with the advent of the very hot oven we are now able to offer a pizza that previously took 10 or 15 minutes to make to just 3 minutes. This changes the paradigm, especially for lunch, by fulfilling a desire by consumers to have a high-quality offering quickly served, so that they can enjoy one of their favorite foods with minimal time commitment.
Q:What is your advice for other fast casual restaurants struggling in this economy?
Zuckerman: There is no substitute for catering to our guests' desires and fulfilling them while in our restaurants. This holds true for any and all dining experiences. For those restaurateurs in this space, the same attention to detail should apply in all facets of the guests' experiences: Quality of food, service, cleanliness and affordability are just a few of the tenets to enhance the experience.
Q: What is the No. 1 way you attract customers?
Zuckerman: There is no doubt that word of mouth is our best friend, and our social media extensions enhance the end game by helping to expand our base. We certainly employ traditional means of advertising and promotion, but feel very strongly that the individual guest experience will win the day and translate virally to greater results.
Q: How can you (and other fast casual pizza concepts) compete with the quality of higher-end pizza restaurants? Your prices are lower, of course, but how does the quality of the food compare?
Zuckerman: We believe that the value proposition inherent in most fast casual spaces should not infringe on quality at any level. There simply is no reason that a fast casual restaurant cannot deliver all of the elements necessary to make each guest feel great about their choice to dine at your restaurant. In our case, the results have been validated by our guests comparing and reviewing us very favorably to higher-end pizza restaurants and spreading the word to their friends. It is humbling to know that you can deliver solid results by any comparative simply by doing the best job you can.
Cover photo: From left: Jeff Zuckerman, CMO; Irv Zuckerman, co-CEO; Rodney Eckerman, co-CEO and Nicholas Eckerman, COO.
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Cherryh Butler has been a reporter and editor for nearly 15 years, writing on a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry to business and health and fitness news. Before joining Networld Media Group as managing editor of Food/Retail Publications, she was content specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City and has served as editor for several publications. She's also written for several daily newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine.