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

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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.”

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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 mark.brandau@penton.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN

Craft Series: Shrimp Arugula Pie

We are excited to launch the latest addition to our Craft Series!  The Shrimp Arugula Pie features our new creamy alfredo sauce, white cheddar, Gulf shrimp, and black pepper.  Once baked in our brick oven, it is topped with fresh arugula, a pinch of parmesan and garnished with a lemon wedge.  Try it today!

Athens Banner Herald: Athens-Based Your Pie Launches Customer Loyalty App

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Being a fan of Your Pie could get you free pizza thanks to a new mobile application.

The company is testing its first loyalty app, exclusively in Athens. The app launches its second version everywhere June 1.

Your Pie Founder Drew French said the points-per-dollar app is a step above their previous loyalty card system.

“The card system didn’t allow us to really connect with the customer and it didn’t show our true colors as a brand,” French said. “So as we recognized that everyone was moving to using their smartphones. … Part of our values here at Your Pie is innovation. We are always looking for ways to push the envelope, so we decided to go mobile for our customers.”

One of the questions French said the company asked when developing the app was if customers had the Your Pie brand in their hands, what would that look like?

“We looked at some of the early adopters in the loyalty arena, the biggest one being Starbucks. They had their own app, but we found a company that allows us to have similar functionality as Starbucks, but with some bells and whistles that they don’t have,” French said. “It was really important to me to make sure that it was a Your Pie-branded app. We have great customers and we want to be able to connect with them.”

The free app currently offers customers a menu, location information, store hours and rewards or points based on dollars spent. The app automatically gives customers $3 for downloading it and for every $100 spent, customers receive $10 back.

Customers are prompted after downloading the app to then enter their credit card information, which allows them to purchase a pie by scanning their phone at the register.

The app’s reward system starts out as a slice of pizza and the pizza grows each time dollars are spent. When the pie is whole, the customer can get a free pizza.

Andrew Warlick, who has been an employee at Your Pie for more than four years, said the app has helped alleviate confusion when it comes to points earned.

“The customer can check their progress immediately instead of having to come in and hope they have enough points (for a reward),” Warlick said. “With this, they know already what points they have so there’s no confusion.”

Your Pie Operations Consultant Courtney Brown said another benefit to the app is having all the information right at the customer’s fingertips.

“We knew going in … we wanted something to engage our customers and give us the benefit of being able to see who was buying our pizzas,” Brown said. “The main incentive is that as you spend you earn credit. I’ve actually already earned a pizza.”

When the second version of the app is launched everywhere in June, customers who already have it downloaded will need to run an update to get the new features, which will include online ordering.

“Again, it offers incentives to be loyal and it allows us to understand our customers better. We can see what they are spending their money on and how often, allowing us to reach out to them and thank them,” said French. “Initial feedback has been great. It’s definitely a step above our old system.”

The app works on both iPhones and Androids. If a customer doesn’t have a smartphone, loyalty cards are still available.

French said the company is already working on a third version that will incorporate mobile-to-moblie gift card options.

For more information, visit www.yourpie.com.

Read Athens Banner Herald Article.

Pizza Marketplace: “Your Pie Leverages Popular Promotion to Improve Operations”

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Your Pie began celebrating “Pi Day,” March 14 — in honor of the 3.14 math constant — five years ago by offering pizzas for $3.14.

The company’s promotion has steadily grown every year since, but this year’s event surpassed “steady.”

On March 14, 18-unit Your Pie turned in its busiest day ever, with 14,000 pizzas sold, 10,000 customers served and more than 3,500 pounds of cheese consumed. According to founder Drew French, this represented a 52-percent increase from Pi Day 2013, and a 300-percent increase from a typical business day.

Aside from the addition of three new units, the campaign’s success was mostly driven by marketing efforts.

“As we’ve grown more units, we’ve put more marketing support behind Pi Day. We’re getting more sophisticated with our marketing. This year’s Pi Day just ended, but we’re already starting to plan for next year,” French said.

Much of that marketing comes from Your Pie’s social media channels. The company’s strongest presence is on Facebook, and it is building up its Twitter account and jumping into Instagram as well.

“When we first started this campaign five years ago, social media didn’t really exist like it does now. We did some radio and a little print that first year. As social media became more of an option, we were able to spread the word better and now use that more than anything. It’s been our best form because of our customer base,” French said.

Your Pie got its start in Athens, Ga. — a college town. It continues to have a heavy college following, as well as moms, French said. The brand’s social media strategy will mainly depend on the preferences of these two groups.

“We don’t have a formula because social media is ever evolving and we’ve had to evolve as well. As different social media comes about, we’ll adjust our strategy,” he said.

More than social media

Although Your Pie’s sweet spot is in social media, it also uses other channels to connect with its customers, including email, texting and traditional media.

“We try to give them enough options to reach out to us and let us know what they want,” French said. “Being involved in the community is also big — doing events that are highly localized and giving back to the community.”

The latter strategy is the reason Your Pie tied its popular Pi Day promotion into a “customer appreciation day.”

“Everyone gets excited about Pi and Pi Day. It’s our busiest day of the year and I think it’s more because it’s our way of giving back to our customers. It makes it fun,” French said.

Operational training

Customers aren’t the only beneficiaries of the event. French said one of the reasons this year’s Pi Day was so successful is because stores that have participated before know what to expect and are better because of it.

“We learn a lot about ourselves on Pi Day. We put a lot of pressure on our staff to handle a 300-percent increase of what they’re used to and, for a one-day shot, they’re not necessarily geared up for that, so they have to adjust their operations,” he said. “Each year we push ourselves and learn enough to get a little better.”

To prepare for the day, each Your Pie adds a few staff members and stocks up on pizzas and some ancillary items. Soda, pizza, wine and gelato sales also go up on this day, French said. Once every restaurant is stocked and staffed, it’s full speed ahead.

“You can tell people all day about what to expect for this type of day, but until you actually go through it, you can’t really share best practices on how to execute it. Stores that have done it in past knew what to expect to a degree,” French said. “New stores that have never done it, they get an eye-opening experience. That’s why it’s an appreciation day for our customers, but for us, it’s an opportunity to learn and get better.”

Read Pizza Marketplace Article.

Pi(e) Day is coming…

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Pi(e) Day is back for its fifth annual celebration of the circle. Come into any Your Pie location on March 14th to celebrate with us and get any Your Pie for only $3.14!

What’s Pi(e) Day? Pi(e) Day is an offbeat tribute to pi, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, which is approximately equal to 3.14.  In celebration of the mathematical symbol that gives pizza its shape, Your Pie will offer their craft pies for $3.14. Pizzas will start at a base price of $3.14 and include an assortment of fresh ingredients, with additional premium ingredients or gluten-free dough costing a bit more.

Want more information?

PMQ Slice of Life: Building Brand Awareness with the Your Pie Year Long Facebook Campaign

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Your Pie is really about customer choice and having fun. So, their year long Facebook campaign was designed to highlight exactly that. 

The Year of Pie began as a smaller monthly campaign when the first store opened in Athens, Georgia in 2008. In 2012, they expanded it to a year-long campaign with a Your Pie annual winner.

“The concept was built on choice and the customers decide what they get,” founder Drew French said. “The “What’s Your Pie promotion (the monthly contest) spun out of that. We were already asking them to do this anyway so we asked them to submit their combinations and the winner we honored for a month. Then we decided to take the monthly winners and pit them against each other.”

In 2012 the winner had their pie added to the menu and received free pizza for a year. This year, French decided to step it up with the winner receiving a trip to Ischia, Italy. 

“We wanted to make it even bigger so we added the trip to Ischia,” French said. “It is a cool island and I am excited to send someone there so they can experience the beauty and culture of it. My wife’s family is from there and that is where we went on our honeymoon.”

Ischia is also where French cemented his plans on what Your Pie would be by adding brick oven pizzas and more Italian-style personal pizzas including fresh, local ingredients. In fact, their margherita style pizza is even named the Ischia. 

While customers share their best pizza concepts on Facebook, Your Pie receives a combination of more likes and more talk on their page. 

“It helps build that awareness,” French said. “I think by letting our customers create the combinations and then feature them, it helps people understand what we do and why.It is a social media driver.”

French said that customers do not have to buy to vote. All they must do is like the Facebook page and then they can vote daily for their favorite customer-created pie. 

“It is about thanking our customers for being creative,” French said. 

Your Pie began on Facebook when it opened and then a national page was created after they expanded to more than one store.French suggests that if pizzerias are going to be on Facebook, then they must be active.“A lot of people are just on it to be on it,” French said. “What we tell our franchisees is if you are going to be active on it than it is a great tool to engage with customers on an active level and to show some behind the scenes or show what you are as a brand. It is a great tool to connect with your customers and do have something worth talking about. If you are not going to be active than I recommend you don’t have a local page and let the national page do the work for them.”

French said he advises that for one-store pizzerias that joining Facebook is a great way to connect locally with customers and helps add brand awareness.

“To me it’s a no brainer, but it’s not for everybody,” French said.

French said that for Your Pie, they highlight how with fast-casual and personal size pizza, you don’t have to settle anymore when choosing a pizza. They also highlight their quality ingredients and who they are as a brand.

“We are a fun innovative brand and have fun and show people our personality,” French said.

French said he tries all of the pizzas that win. As far as his regular choices at Your Pie, French said he has two top pizza choices. When in a more traditional mood he eats the Ischia which is their version of margherita pizza but he adds some marinara sauce, garlic, pepperonis and jalapenos. When in a non-Italian mood he prefers spicy toppings. His favorite is a barbecue and hot sauce mix with mozzarella, chicken, cilantro, jalapenos and pineapple.

Voting for the “Pie of the Year” begins at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 2, and will end at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, January 20, on Your Pie’s Facebook page and visit the Your Pie(www.yourpie.com) website to learn more about the company.

The creator of the “Pie of the Year” will receive a grand-prize package that includes a flight to Italy with four nights lodging, transportation to Ischia from Rome, and a $700 spending card.

The 12 finalists represent a cross-section of Your Pie’s 18 locations, and their creations include colorful names such as the “Bulldawg Bite,” “Hearts On Fire” and “Mama Walker’s Mediterranean Madness.”

The winner of 2012’s “Pie of the Year” was Kelly Brooks from Watkinsville, Ga., whose “The Aloha” pizza creation earned the top honor. The 2013 winner will be announced on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014.

Originator of the Down-The-Line Pizza Category Puts Power in Fans’ Hands to Determine No. 1 Pie

Are you ready to rumble?

Your Pie, the originator of the down-the-line pizza category, is proud to launch the “Pie of the Year” contest on Facebook to determine the best original fan creation of 2013. Your Pie Facebook fans will vote to determine who reigns supreme as 2013’s king or queen of customizable culinary creativity.

Each month, Your Pie has honored its motto to “express your inner pizza” by inviting fans of the brand to submit their Your Pie customized pizza masterpiece on Facebook. A winner was selected each month based on fan voting and received free Your Pie for a month.

The “Pie of the Year” contest on Facebook pits all 12 winners against one another in a final showdown ¬– with the grand prize of a trip to the Island of Ischia in Italy, where Drew French, Founder of Your Pie, first conceived of the idea for a down-the-line, customizable pizza franchise.

“The spirit of Your Pie is based on creativity, originality, and fun,” French said. “Our fans have used our pizzas as the canvas for their culinary artistry and created some really incredible pies. I’m excited to send the winner to Ischia for an eye-opening and incredible experience – just like the one I had.”

The creator of the “Pie of the Year” will receive a grand-prize package that includes a flight to Italy with four nights lodging, transportation to Ischia from Rome, and a $700 spending card.

The 12 finalists represent a cross-section of Your Pie’s 18 locations, and their creations include colorful names such as the “Bulldawg Bite,” “Hearts On Fire” and “Mama Walker’s Mediterranean Madness.”

The winner of 2012’s “Pie of the Year” was Kelly Brooks from Watkinsville, Ga., whose “The Aloha” pizza creation earned the top honor.

Voting for the “Pie of the Year” begins at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, January 2, and will end at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, January 20, on Your Pie’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/YourPie.

Only Your Pie Facebook fans will be able to vote for the winner, and each fan has the opportunity to vote once per day during the voting period. The winner will be announced on Monday, Jan. 27, 2014.

As its impressive digital fan base is translating to a growing customer clientele, Your Pie aims to reach 100 locations in the U.S. by the end of 2015, with plans to add locations in Atlanta, Charlotte, Tampa, Nashville, Charleston, Birmingham and Augusta, Ga. Although Your Pie is primarily looking for partners to join the Your Pie family in the Southeast, the brand is capable of supporting locations across the country.

 

What’s Your Pie? Final Competition

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Over the past year, our fans have submitted their unique Your Pie creations and competed each month in our What’s Your Pie? contest – and now it’s time to send one lucky Pie of the Month winner to the Italian island of Ischia! So, support your favorite pie from now until the 20th by voting on our Facebook page. We’ll be randomly rewarding voters with Your Pie prizes!

**If voting from a smart phone, be sure to access Facebook through your internet browser instead of the Facebook app.