How 1 couple's love story was the catalyst to a thriving pizza business
During their honeymoon in Italy, Drew and Natalie French were inspired to create their own fast casual pizza brand.
By Natalie French, co-founder, Your Pie
I'm not sure how many national restaurant brands were envisioned on a honeymoon, but that's where the Your Pie story begins. In 2006, my high school sweetheart — Drew — and I celebrated our marriage on the island of Ischia, just off the coast of Naples, Italy, where my extended family lives.
They are the most hospitable people you will ever meet, and they welcomed us with open arms. We immediately felt at home amidst the gorgeous landscapes, delicious food and familial storytelling. Many of my family members even had brick ovens right in their backyards and would bake us amazing pizzas with fresh ingredients and smoky, earthy flavors.
Most pizzas in Italy are made small — 8- to-12 inches at most. The outdoor brick ovens bake very quickly, at very high temperatures. Sitting beside family members on a warm summer evening, we had our "aha" moment. We realized that good, authentic pizza could be done fast and could be done individually. These aspects, combined with an atmosphere of community and relational culture, are what propelled Drew and me to develop Your Pie.
Italian culture is embedded in the Your Pie experience and emanates as soon as you walk in the door. From our brick ovens and fresh ingredients to the friendly atmosphere and inviting aesthetic, we want all guests to feel like family at Your Pie, in each and every community we serve. Our time in Italy showed us a genuine picture of sharing delicious food around a table with family. Because of this, we take pride in getting to know our customers' names, in visiting their table and in providing an experience that creates shareable moments.
Our commitment to our customers goes beyond the in-store experience. We're continually seeking new ways to support and give back to each of the communities we call home — and we do this from day one.
Each new Your Pie store opens with a three-day Dine & Donate event, during which the team serves up to 1,200 free pizzas in exchange for donations to a local charity or nonprofit. We encourage all franchisees to maintain these relationships and seek out new opportunities to support the community where it's needed most. At the end of the day, our goal is to be the best fast casual pizza in the world, and the best fast casual pizza for the world.
Above all else, our commitment is to our product: an individual pie that is reminiscent of the pizza we experienced in Italy but completely customizable to each guests' tastes and preferences. Hand-tossing our dough, house-making our sauces and cooking each pizza in a brick oven adds some operational complexity, but we know that the end product is worth it when a customer tells us that it is the best pizza they have ever had.
Here are a few top tips that other operators may want to use to better connect with their customers:
- Make a second table touch. We make a point to bring food to our customers at their tables to have a second chance to interact with them and ensure they're enjoying the Your Pie experience.
- Collaborate with local purveyors. We celebrate what is unique and local in each of our communities, and customers appreciate seeing their favorite local craft beers on tap.
- Give back to the community. We connect with local charities that matter to our customers and enjoy supporting each and every community that we serve.
Your Pie is so much more than a fast casual pizza joint; it's an extension of us, our family and the experiences that inspire us. I will never forget how my aunts, uncles and cousins in Ischia made us feel right at home in those first days as husband and wife. Now, we strive to do the same in our 54 restaurants across the country.
Topics: Operations Management