Franchise Focus: 2 cousins sink teeth into fast casual pizza business
The restaurant business runs in the blood of Artichoke Basille Pizza owners Francis Garcia and Sal Basille. The cousins grew up in New York working in their parents' multiple restaurants but went out on their own in 2008.
"When we told our family that we were leaving behind four generations of restaurant business in Staten Island to open our own shop in NYC, our mothers said to us, 'They're gonna chew you up, and spit you out.' It didn't stop us," Garcia said.
"We borrowed the money, built it ourselves, and we stuck to what we knew — pizza and beer, Basille said in an email interview." After being open only a few weeks, there was a line around the corner. We couldn't believe it."
Artichoke, which reported $7.1 million in 2016, in gross annual sales based on the four restaurants open at the time, now has 12 locations in New York's five boroughs as well as in Miami and Berkley, California. The Miami location, which opened last year as the duo's first franchised unit, operates out of an existing popular nightclub — Ricky's South Beach — in the heart of Miami nightlife. Another franchisee will open Artichoke Pizza units this year in Hoboken, New Brunswick, Princeton and Newark, New Jersey.
"We hope that one day there will be an Artichoke Pizza in every city throughout the world," Basille said.
Although the cousins starred in their own show, "Pizza Cuz" on the Cooking Channel and appeared in "Pizza Masters," a Food Channel series still airing on the network and Netflix, the cousins want more.
"The immediate goal is to franchise in the top 40 media markets in the U.S.," Garcia said.
FastCasual chatted with the Basille and Garcia to see how they plan to make that happen.
Q. There's a lot offast casualpizza brands these days. How is yours different?
Garcia: Unlike "conveyor belt" pizza concepts, Artichoke Basille's Pizza specializes in "authentic New York Pizza," which is the measuring stick for pizza around the globe. Our menu features pizza by the slice, whole pies, and Italian non-pizza options. Favorites include our namesake Artichoke Pie with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino romano; classics like Margherita Pie with olive oil, plum tomato, fresh basil, and a blend of Italian cheeses; and Artichoke originals like Crab Pie with crab sauce, fresh mozzarella, and panko-breaded Surimi crab meat.
Q. What does it take to become afranchisee(skills and cash investment)?
Basille: We're looking for experienced and qualified multi-unit foodservice operators or well-capitalized investors interested in introducing New York's most famous, delicious, and popular pizza slice to new customers across the United States.
Q: What types of tech do you use to run your business?
Garcia: We use a cloud-based point-of-sale system throughout all of our locations that allows us to remotely check sales performance.
Q: How do you keep food costs and supply chain costs down?
Basille: We've partnered with some of the industry's best purveyors and manufacturers, some of whom have been with us since the beginning, and know the quality standards that we strive to maintain. Our limited menu allows us to buy products in large quantities and helps us keep costs down.
Q: Who comes up with your recipes?
Garcia. A lot of the things we cook are things we grew up eating around the house. We both have been coming up with different types of pizzas ever since we've worked in our parents' restaurants.
Q: Anything else we should know?
Basille: We are still very much a family-owned and operated business. Many of our employees have been working in our families' businesses dating back to the 1980s. We are a tight-knit group and they have become a part of our extended family. We are excited and look forward to welcoming franchisees to the Artichoke Pizza family.
Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.www