Your Pie Featured on CNBC

The next big slice of the fast-casual restaurant market is expected to come from an Italian American staple: pizza.

The success of the fast-casual trend is best evidenced by Chipotle, which since September of last year has seen its stock rise more than 55 percent, an upsurge driven primarily by same-store sales growth. At the same time, sales at fast-food behemoth McDonald’s dropped for the third straight quarter, while a recent survey of McDonald’s franchise owners showed the highest level of pessimism in a decade.

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Apple Pie Pie Launch

Nothing says Fall like warm apple pie. To celebrate this season, we are rolling out our new Apple Pie Pie! This delicious seasonal craft pie covers our hand tossed dough with apples and caramel.  Next we sprinkle it with a pie crumble and bake to perfection in our brick oven. Nw that it is nice and warm, we make it a la mode by topping it with our apple pie gelato and caramel drizzle!


Your Pie Launches Chopped Salads

As the chopped salad craze continues to dominate the fast-casual lunch scene, Your Pie is adding this customizable favorite to our menu. By reducing the customer’s selection of ingredients into salad confetti, it becomes “salad made easy”. Easy to eat by being chopped into tiny, little bits that fit comfortably on your fork. This way you get a bite of greens, beans, and cheese with every lift of the fork.

No longer will customers be subjected to the tyranny of a naked lettuce bite, or the frustration of having a kidney bean roll off your fork. Even better, toss the salad in one of our delicious house made dressings. Enjoy your dressing on every bite, instead of covering only half of the salad.

Just as customers enjoy the theatre of watching their dough hand tossed, they also love watching a ninja salad maker with a big blade reduce a pile of greens and toppings into fine shreds in a matter of seconds. Eating healthy has never been so easy!

Your Pie - Chopped Salads Promo-fbshare

Your Pie Featured on CNBC

The next big slice of the fast-casual restaurant market is expected to come from an Italian American staple: pizza.

The success of the fast-casual trend is best evidenced by Chipotle Mexican Grill, which since September of last year has seen its stock rise more than 55 percent, an upsurge driven primarily by same-store sales growth. At the same time, sales at fast-food behemoth McDonald’s dropped for the third straight quarter , while a recent survey of McDonald’s franchise owners showed the highest level of pessimism in a decade.

Consumers want better food, but they still want it quickly. That’s makes fast-casual pizza a compelling proposition for franchises. Chipotle, Buffalo Wild Wings and Smashburger are among the existing fast-casual chains investing in the pizza concept. Why? The fast-food pizza market is a $32 billion annual industry, according to NPD Group’s food service unit, Crest. And it’s fair to say that in a landscape dominated by Domino’s, Pap John’s, Papa Murphy’s, Little Caesers and Pizza Hut, there is room for food-quality improvement.

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Your Pie Opens New Snellville, Ga Location; Partners with The Path Project

Two young men with a passion for pizza are bringing something different to The Shoppes at Webb Gin. Andrew Williams and Ross Bradley are co-owners of Your Pie, a quick-serve, brick-oven, customized personal pizza restaurant opening this Saturday. Located on the Sprouts Market side of The Shoppes, the fast-casual chain brings a dedication to fresh ingredients, customer service and community engagement.

In fact, Williams and Bradley are so committed to the community, they spent the past week putting their money where their mouth is. The pair teamed up with Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth of The Path Project for a very unique fundraiser. Each night this week from 6-9PM, various community groups were invited to come and dine as a training exercise for the restaurant’s staff. Patrons were not charged for food, but were encouraged to make a donation to The Path Project instead. Known locally for their commitment to helping kids in various mobile home communities, Monday night’s training was even dedicated to The Path Project’s staff and volunteers, as well the students and their families.

The result of such community harmony? Your Pie’s staff went into their first training session with a line out the door and down the sidewalk.

“We were hoping for 100 people, but Jim just kind of laughed and said, ‘That won’t be a problem,’” Williams said. “And our team handled it well – from order to pizza in the oven took less than 8 minutes on average, and we have experienced stores that average seven minutes in a rush like that.”

The live training/fundraising idea is an example of Your Pie’s corporate philosophy of truly becoming part of the community.

“When Your Pie first started, they didn’t train with live guests, and we found that we were wasting food,” Bradley said “That got us thinking, and we came up with the idea to invite these different groups to come in, eat for free, and we’d encourage them to make a donation to a worthy cause.”

Your Pie is a franchise with over 20 locations across the Southeast, according to founder Drew French. Speaking by phone, French said the idea for the restaurant came from his honeymoon in Italy.

“My wife is Italian, so while we were over there, I noticed so many of the families would gather around in the evenings and eat together, and almost every house had a brick oven in the backyard. I thought, ‘There’s something to this. We need something like this back home.’”

French brought the idea stateside to Athens, Georgia, where his wife was enrolled in school. A graduate of UGA’s Terry College of Business himself, French thought the famous college town would be the perfect place to try out his idea. He found space in the Beechhaven Shopping Center and opened the first Your Pie.

Business exploded, and before long he was approached by patrons who wanted to bring the distinctive pizza to their hometown.

“Our first store was in Charleston, South Carolina,” French said. “Simply because a man from Charleston ate at the Athens store and said, ‘What do I have to do to bring this to Charleston?’ We sat down, figured things out, and before long we had 20 stores across the Southeast.”

The newest of those stores opens Saturday in Snellville. Williams and Bradley plan on celebrating in style – 104.7 the Fish will broadcast from the restaurant between 11AM and 1PM, and the owners plan to present a check for the total of the week’s donations to The Path Project.

“I got to know Jim and Melinda through my sister,” Williams said. “We were looking for a local organization we could support on multiple levels, and The Path Project was the perfect fit.”

Hollandsworth agrees.

“When I met with Andrew and Ross, and heard their vision for Your Pie, I knew they were someone we could work with,” he said. “With their emphasis on character and mentoring their employees, it just went hand in hand with what we’re doing at our Path Project locations.”

The alliance will continue well into the future. Williams and Bradley are exploring ways to get their employees involved at some of The Path Project’s locations and are open to interviewing older teens the organization believes are ready for employment. The two owners and Hollandsworth chat regularly to exchange ideas.

“This really is a true partnership,” Hollandsworth said.

“We are so glad to be working with them,” Williams agreed.

Your Pie’s grand opening for the Snellville store is tomorrow, September 27th. The celebration kicks off with the Fish’s live broadcast at 11:00 AM, and continues into the evening. Williams and Bradley promise no one will go home disappointed.

“We have top of the line ingredients from local sources, and we cut, chop and make everything fresh daily,” Williams said. “Our focus is on hand crafted pizzas and making sure every customer gets what they want.”

Customers have their choice of a 10-inch white, wheat, or gluten-free crust, and there is even an 8-inch kids pizza that comes with an order of gelato. The crust can be topped with traditional marinara or one of their seven other sauces (including Thai, Basil Pesto, and BBQ) and the selection of cheeses include mozzarella (low-fat, fresh-made, and regular), cheddar, gorgonzola and feta.

And all of that comes before the veggies and meats.

Did they mention customers can even build a completely vegan pizza as well? Customers can even order online.

The customer getting what they want extends to the wallet as well – the restaurant offers every pizza, panini, and chopped salad for one price: $7.99.

“And that’s whatever you want on your pizza, or salad,” Bradley said. “If you want one of everything, you get it, and the price doesn’t change. We found it was better for the customer that way, and that’s our goal: to make things better for the customer. From the very beginning of Your Pie, the goal has been for customers to feel at home when they come in.”

Your Pie’s founder agrees.

“That’s what we want,” French said. “We want you to come in, get a craft pizza, enjoy a local craft beer, and just enjoy being with us.”

Your Pie is located in The Shoppes of Webb Gin at 1250 Scenic Highway, Suite 400, next to Genesis Hair Salon.


Your Pie Layers Loyalty Program Onto Smartphone App

Loyal customers have long been the bread and butter for restaurant brands, and more companies are rewarding their best customers through smartphone apps.

From big companies like 20,500-unit Starbucks to smaller brands like 20-unit Your Pie, operators are finding that putting the rewards literally in the customers’ hands via their phones makes good business sense.

Besides driving loyalty, app programs that make it easy for customers to enroll and engage provide the brand with a competitive edge because of the other data they can provide, said Jennifer James, director of marketing at St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Kobie Marketing.

“The restaurant brand can evaluate loyalty program transaction data for segment offers, promotions and other communications to drive frequency, daypart or week-part visits, and encourage more profitable behaviors,” James said.

Seattle-based Starbucks Corp. has been a leader in the loyalty app space with its animated gold-level cup that captures “falling stars” as guests buy more items and allows redemption automatically through the payment part of its app.

Other brands have created in-app programs that offer incentives ranging from FitBit activity monitors, in the case of 150-unit BJ’s Restaurants Inc., based in Huntington Beach, Calif., to freebies, such as a special Sept. 9 one-day promotion by Canton, Mass.-based Dunkin’ Donuts that offered new enrollees in its DD Perks app a $5 gift card and a free medium beverage at its 11,000 units.

Other companies have followed suit because capturing loyal customers pays off for the restaurant brand, said James.

“In one client program, for example, we know members spend 10 percent more on average than non-members, and the trend increases upward at about 1 percent per year,” James said. “Using sophisticated lifetime value methodologies and other proprietary algorithms, we were able show customer lifetime value as a result of loyalty program revenue to be $500 million over a three-year span.”

James added that the best loyalty programs help restaurant brands deliver “more convenience through simplified and personalized customer experiences.”

Drew French, founder of Athens, Ga.-based Your Pie, said in an interview that his brand will launch a custom-built app-based loyalty program over the next few weeks.

“The app is a payment system as well as loyalty,” French said. “It allows them to pull up directions and phone numbers for the restaurants, and we will be integrating online ordering through the app.”

French explained the process of using the app: “We’re fast-casual pizza, so you go through the line, order the toppings and when you get to the register you just open your app — it’s integrated with our point-of-sale system — and there’s a scanner where they hold the phone up to that scanner. It’s seamless,” he said. “They pay and get their loyalty points automatically.”

As loyal guests accumulate points, the app builds a virtual pizza, slice by slice. Your Pie rewards loyal customers with a $10 off after they spend $100. The app also allows for special rewards on birthdays and anniversaries.

“Without our loyal customers, we’d cease to exist,” he added. “Giving them a reward and incentive to for being loyal — making them feel like they are part of the brand — is very important.”

Marketing expert James said one of the most effective in restaurant loyalty programs is the integration into devices such as tablets, mobile phones and kiosks.

“Restaurants are experimenting with digital and social to connect with members and to connect members with each other in an omni-channel fashion playing off of patron behaviors — such as encouraging them to check-in via Facebook or share a photo via Instagram or write a review on Yelp or other social channels,” James said. “Restaurants are also embracing digital channels to tell their story, test new menu items and encourage repeat visits. Mobile integration with the POS has helped speed up the check process, collect feedback, deliver coupons, etc.”

When execs at Chicago-based Forever Yogurt began considering a loyalty program last year, they immediately decided to put it in a smartphone app.

“People are spending more time on their phones compared to other media platforms, so we really wanted to capture that market and create an instant connection with our customers,” Miranda Wilson, the 25-unit Forever Yogurt’s marketing analyst and consumer consultant. “The convenience factors of locations, promotions and flavors at favorite stores are important.”

The brand, owned by Forever Brands LLC, will roll out the app to the general public later this year. Several store customers, franchisees and corporate employees are testing the app.

After spending $50, Wilson said, rewards program members automatically get a $5 credit, which can be redeemed by giving the cashier the rewards program number. The brand offers 25 incentive points with a sign-up into the loyalty program, and Wilson said customers are more willing to enroll because it doesn’t require a card.

“You can easily check your loyalty balance on the app by typing in your rewards number, which is actually your phone number, and it shows your recent purchases and how many points you have,” said Wilson.

Customers can also send virtual gift cards to friends and family using the mobile pay via text.

Jerry Zhang, Forever Yogurt’s director of creative development, added, “mobile payments are always live, but you have to put in your phone number —which is your password — to check your balance.”

The app also lets loyal customers get first notice of new promotions and other brand news and gets “them more involved with the company and brand,” Zhang said.

The company designed the app in-house and used outside teams to develop it and its loyalty component. “This is a long process,” Zhang advised.

James of Kobie Marketing said the loyalty information can be used to hone and improve the guest experience in the stores as well.

“One of our restaurant clients uses profile and preference data shared by their members to enhance the experience from the moment they arrive at the hostess stand,” she said.

But while new and existing technology will enable more personalized experiences, restaurants must deliver on the promise, operators noted.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t everything right in terms of quality of food and customer service, there’s not a loyalty program in the world that is going to fix that,” said French of Your Pie.

Craft Beer a Focus at Your Pie

Fast casual appears to be the darling of the industry, as American consumers seek higher-quality food than quick service and a faster pace than casual dining. But for the most part, they aren’t drinking at fast-casual restaurants.

Although many fast-casual chains sell beer, wine and even cocktails, sales of those potentially profitable items range from sluggish to nonexistent. Even perennial success story Chipotle says beverage alcohol accounts for about 2 percent of sales. Some fast-casual chains have boosted alcohol sales by making it a priority. Others have used alcohol less as a profit center and more as an amenity to drive traffic. One roadblock is that most fast-casual restaurants don’t integrate selling alcohol into their culture, said Richard Keys, managing partner of Food and Drink Resources, a foodservice consulting firm in Centennial, Colo. “They put it on the shelf and no one does training,” Keys said.

Additionally, since fast-casual employees aren’t tipped, they have no incentive to upsell. Many are also younger than 21 years old, so they can’t serve alcohol in the first place. “They’re not operationally set up for it,” Keys added, noting that the service style at most fast-casual restaurants, in which customers order and pay at a counter and have food delivered to them, doesn’t give restaurants the opportunity to sell more than one drink. That is permissible at lunch, when fast-casual restaurants do most of their business, and when most customers don’t want alcohol anyway. But as these restaurants try to capture more dinner business and go head-to-head with full-service operations, alcohol becomes more of a factor.

Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of Technomic Inc.’s adult beverage resource group, said offering alcohol can negate the veto vote from guests who might want a drink with their dinner — or even guests who imagine they might want a drink with their dinner.

“It’s kind of like offering healthy items. People might say they want it, but they don’t necessarily order it,” she said. Still, by offering alcohol, “You give [guests] another reason to come in.” Andrew Gruel, founder of fast-casual seafood concept Slapfish, uses alcohol to create buzz to draw in customers. The restaurant has two locations in Orange County, Calif. — one with a liquor license and one without, plus one in Dubai.

Gruel said offering beer contributed to a successful fish taco Tuesdays promotion. “We use our alcohol as a draw card,” Gruel said. “It’s one of those pieces of the experience.” Part of that draw is keeping drinks inexpensive — $5 pitchers on Tuesdays, $2 Pabst Blue Ribbon all day every day, and other beer and wine for $4 to $7. As a result, alcohol accounts for between 6 percent and 8 percent of sales in the restaurant with the liquor license.

“We don’t make the margins most people think about when it comes to alcohol in restaurants, but we’re also Slapfish, not Slapfish and Cantina,” he said. “We’re better off selling fish tacos.” Larry Leith takes a similar approach at Tokyo Joe’s, a 30-unit fast-casual chain based in Denver that serves sushi, rice bowls and Japanese noodles. Like most restaurants in the segment, alcohol sales make up less than 5 percent of the total, but he keeps the price of the beer offered — mostly Japanese brands — to around $3 per bottle.

“For us it’s about the full dining experience and how it relates to the food you’re having at Joe’s,” Leith said. “It just creates a better dining experience, so it’s very important.”It also allows more promotional opportunities for Tokyo Joe’s. For example, the restaurant offers $1 beers during football games.“It’s fun to do on Saturdays, or if it’s a Broncos game,” Leith said.

Although, given the service format, most people don’t have more than one beer, Leith plans to launch service tests in the next two months that will include a server walking the floor on Friday and Saturday evenings offering to sell more beer.

Gruel is planning a similar approach as Slapfish expands, to display beer and wine more prominently and to hire a server at minimum wage to sell drinks on commission.

Spencer Rubin, founder of Melt Shop, a four-unit grilled cheese concept in New York, also said he sees beer and wine as an amenity.

“We never saw it as a hugely profitable undertaking, more of an addition that would make our customers happy,” Rubin said. “We have tried to differentiate the program with our own private label beer, Melt Hops, from Abita Brewing Company, and have fantastic wines on tap.”

In 2012, 240-unit better-burger chain Smashburger began working with local craft beer companies in markets where it operates.

Your Pie has teamed with local craft brewers. Photo: Your Pie

Your Pie, a fast-casual pizza chain based in Athens, Ga., takes a similar approach. Although the 19-unit chain offers wine and is testing brunch cocktails in one market, founder Drew French said its big push for the past several years has been sales of craft beer.“A lot of time, alcohol is kind of an afterthought in fast casual,” French said.

“We’ve actually rebranded our four walls and how we position beer and wine at the stores to be a much more focused effort.”As a result, although most locations have alcohol sales in the 5-percent range, some see sales in the double digits, and one of two Savannah, Ga., locations racks up 20 percent of total sales in alcohol.“We’ve made a real strong focus on educating both our staff and customers,” he said.

That includes teaming up with local craft brewers and offering their beers on tap so they can offer samples of them to guests while explaining how different beers pair with pizzas. For example, India pale ales go well with Your Pie’s Lineage pizza, made with mozzarella, black and green olives, bell peppers, onions, Italian sausage and pepperoni.

French also put his Savannah franchisees in charge of leading the way in driving sales. They distribute a monthly newsletter about craft beer trends and what beers are new in different markets.

On average, Your Pie prices its beers at $5 to $6, although French said the chain will charge upwards of $10 for a 12-ounce pour of high-end beers.


Your Pie, the Down-the-Line Pizza Segment’s Originator, Opens First Atlanta Location


ATLANTA – Your Pie, the originator of the quick-serve, brick-oven, customized personal pizza category, is entering the Atlanta market.

On June 13, 2014, Your Pie will open is first Atlanta location. It is located at 5 West Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, Ga., the heart of city’s Buckhead district. This will be the company’s 19th location.

Drew French founded Your Pie in 2008 in Athens, Ga. His goal has always been for multi-unit development in Atlanta.

“Our plan was to build a solid foundation with a first-class franchise system. We’ve been able to perfect our model and replicate it,” said French. “Atlanta residents and visitors are passionate about their pizza, and we can’t wait for them to taste Your Pie’s one-of-a-kind pizza.”

For Atlanta, Buckhead is just the beginning. By the end of 2014, Your Pie will have at least four pizzerias operating in the Atlanta market.

No other down-the-line pizza brand in the United States has grown more steadily or has opened as many pizzerias. Your Pie remains committed to becoming the first down-the-line pizza purveyor to reach 100 operating franchise locations.

With a powerful combination of company assets that includes Drew French, who conceived the concept of down-the-line pizza, a franchise-development team that ranks with the best in the industry and a solidified relationship with Georgia Oak Partners, the brand has established a formula for success to achieve and exceed goals for growth.

“Our hand-tossed dough, brick oven baking technique and mouth-watering tastes are our primary differentiators,” Your Pie Chairman of the Board David Barr said.

Along with delighting Atlanta’s customers, Your Pie is a job creator. The company’s four Atlanta pizzerias will generate approximately 100 jobs.

Your Pie aims to reach 100 locations in the U.S. by the end of 2015. The brand will add locations in Charlotte, Tampa, Nashville, Charleston, Birmingham, and Augusta. Although the brand is looking for partners to join the Your Pie family in the Southeast, they also boast a model to support locations in other areas of the country.

“We love our pizza and can’t wait to share it with all of Atlanta,” French said. “This is step one of a growth plan that will bring Your Pie to many new markets in the coming years.”

Next Steps for Growth: Your Pie fuels growth in expanding niche

Mark Brandau
Thu, 2014-05-15 11:02

Your Pie was one of the first brands to help create what is now the burgeoning and booming fast- casual pizza segment, and the chain wants to not only keep growing its own slice of the pie, but also the size of the whole sector.

Growth timeline

Your Pie’s expansion path

After winning the race to open one of the first fast-casual pizza restaurants in April 2008 — at the age of 24, no less — founder Drew French is confident in his brand’s ability to expand from its current 18 units to the next big milestone, 100 locations, by the end of 2015.

Athens, Ga.-based Your Pie will continue its plan of expansion by franchising throughout Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina. It looks to eventually move beyond the Southeast with a new building prototype, as well as an evolving menu that makes use of regional toppings.

“The cool thing about being first to the fast-casual pizza space is we began as innovators,” French said. “We’re always looking to improve for our customers and our staff.”

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 1.16.58 PM

As an upstart, unproven brand in a new, unproven industry segment, Your Pie’s first restaurant wasn’t exactly a financing magnet. French had difficulty securing a loan, so he scraped together his savings, opened Your Pie, and began serving brick-oven pizzas that customers could customize and get quickly. Word-of-mouth surrounding the new concept spread, business picked up, and soon French was able to get that bank loan to open the second location.
NRN’s guide to growth and expansion >>

Examples in expansion:
Full speed growth: Bojangles’
Revving up growth: Chuy’s
Accelerating growth: Le Pain Quotidien

Tips and lessons from the industry:
How four restaurant chains flourish
Tips from industry experts
Advice from operators
Industry veteran Edna Morris on avoiding pitfalls

Soon French found himself interested in franchising to build out Your Pie’s place in its segment, which suddenly was awash with competitors like Pie Five Pizza Co., Project Pie and others. In 2009, franchising veteran Bucky Cook, who had been consulting French on his venture, took an equity position in Your Pie and came aboard full time as the new chief executive of Your Pie Franchising Inc. Cook had cut his teeth at Heavenly Ham, a ham purveyor that grew through franchising from 10 units to 230 locations and was sold to HoneyBaked Ham in 2002.

French said the acquisition of smart, experienced talent is just as important to an emerging brand as the acquisition of financing.

“I always brought in people who knew how to do things I didn’t know how to do,” French said. “I’ve always had the vision to be bigger than we are, and that hasn’t changed.”

In November, Your Pie also brought on Ken Caldwell as vice president of development. Another franchising veteran, Caldwell worked with Cook at Heavenly Ham and stayed on with Honey Baked Ham after the merger.

On the financing front, Your Pie has been able to attract an investment from Atlanta-based private equity group Georgia Oak Partners, which backed the chain with an undisclosed outlay last October. The firm’s director of restaurant and retail, David Barr, stepped in as chairman of Your Pie, a position he also holds with KFC franchisee PMTD Restaurants LLC and Rita Restaurant Corp. Barr also was chief financial officer and CEO of Great American Cookies from 1994 to 1998 before its sale to Mrs. Fields.

Georgia Oak is looking to help fund corporate-store development and also bolster franchise development by increasing outreach, recruitment and engagement with franchisees, Barr said. He added that Georgia Oak has several crucial relationships with vendors and suppliers needed to build scale in the Southeast and in new markets.

“The human element is a big part of growth,” French said. “The intellectual capital that David provided helped line up the processes and steps, and he brought the contacts he could provide from his time in the franchise world.”
Barr said the human resources knowledge within Your Pie would yield “plenty of fertile ground” in the Southeast, where the chain is targeting Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Tampa, Fla., for growth.

Most of the growth is expected to come from multiunit franchisees, but one corporate store is already in development. That unit will serve as a training site and as a proving ground for a new store design.

“Our focus is on franchising,” Barr said, “but we’ll operate company stores when we think we need to be the leader.”

Contact Mark Brandau at

Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN