There was a newcomer on the pizzeria scene in 2015. Business Insider featured the Pieology Pizza restaurant and its amazing rise within the pizza sector of the fast food industry. According to Business Insider, Pieology was growng so quickly that the casual restaurant chain posed a threat to other more well established pizza chains. Peiology didn't make the expansion to cover the entire United States and it's been a while since we've heard any news, so we checked into their history and current operations to find out what happened to the chain and how they're doing now.
A brief history of Pieology
Pieology is the dream of its founder and CEO Carl Chang. He had the vision of creating a fast casual pizza chain that would stand out among the others. He wanted his guests to feel positive and happy in the environment so he and his partner co-founded the pizza restaurant and plastered the walls with encouraging phrases, provided by his wife. The first restaurant was established in 2011, and quickly expanding to 55 restaurants in the chain which were company owned. They set the goal of reaching 110 locations, and by 2017, the goal of more than 500 restaurants opened and operating. They set up a stone deck oven to bake the pies in under three minutes and the starting price was just $7.95. Customers even had their choice of gluten free, whole wheat or white pizza dough with their choice of sauces and toppings. As for the advertising, Pieology staff encourage their customers to take pictures of their favorite pies and post them on social media. Pieology maintained the goal of being the best pizza restaurant in the United States and they also offered franchise opportunities as a part of their business model to help reach the goals established.
They started in Ranch Santa Margarita, California for the location of the first restaurant. They were up against the likes of MOD Pizza and Blaze Pizza. By 2014, there were 35 stores in 8 states and by 2015, the majority of the Pieology locations were found in Southern California, but they also spread to one location in Mexico and locations in 23 U.S. states popped up with 140 restaurants in the chain by the end of 2015. In 2016, the fist Pieology restaurant was opened in Guam, which is an American Territory, as well as one in Aina Haina, Hawaii.
What makes Pieology different?
Mr. Chang set Pieology restaurants up in a manner that has the capacity to produce 150 pizza's made to order in an hour, although it doesn't beat the competitor, Blaze's average of 175 pizzas per hour on a busy day. The thing that stands out about Pieology pizzas are the ingredients. It's more than choosing which type of crust you want, it's also the house made value of them which gives the dough a unique flavor as the base. Then add the sauce choices which include the red, the olive oil, buffalo, pesto, three cheese Alfredo, herb butter or barbecue. They also use a variety of cheeses which include the traditional mozzarella, along with Parmesan, feta, ricotta, Gorgonzola and there's even a voice of vegan mozzarella. Chang is a real connoisseur of cheese and he knows how to choose with best with regards to flavor and texture. All of the cheese used by Pieology is shredded in house to be a precise width and length. Then you have the tomatoes and the herbs which are used to top it all off, no pun intended. They've gone for uniqueness in all that they do, and for the most part, Pieology has pulled it off nicely.
Customizing the experience
Chang's goal was to ensure that each pizza was offered for a price of $8 or less and that they were precisely customized with an unlimited number of toppings. A great deal of time and energy goes into the creation of their proprietary ingredients. They've already completed the testing on their special stock of basic ingredients such as flour and the toppings, and it's more than just a customized pizza place, it's a pizzeria where each customer is encouraged to explore the depths of their imaginations and to be creative in their customized order of pizza. Another amazing fact about Pieology is that if the customer is disappointed with their pizza, they can get another one at no cost to replace it. They put a lot of thought and effort into making each guest feel welcome and to foster a family environment where everyone feels comfortable. A p art of this task is in hiring employees who have a real passion for the work and who are interested in becoming a part of the team. Chang wants to ensure that each location has a good balance between maintaining a family environment where workers feel at home with one another, and striving to be the best. Accomplishing this goal can be a challenge in some locations, but it translates to the overall feeling that guests have when they enter the premises, so it's important to have harmony among the staff.
Pieology was expanding rapidly and they were doing well in their bottom line. It was time to start looking at some of their biggest competitors. The first one they eyed was Project Pie. In late 2016, they acquired the restaurant chain and it was absorbed within the massive pizza chain that was growing like a wildfire. In 2018, Pieology executives made the decision to open up shop in Polanco, Mexico City, and they also had plans to open a location in the country of Spain.
When you visit the Pieology website you learn that they offer the convenience of online ordering, so you'll have plenty of time to pore over the different dough types, sauces, and toppings which are available. It's really more than a build your own pizza place because they offer so many interesting toppings and flavors that it's more of a smorgasbord where you can truly have your pizza any way that you'd like it. The pizzas are not only made according to your precise specifications, they're really attractive and unique in their appearance. The staff preparing these one of a kind pies are skilled artisans who take their work very seriously, and this is just one more thing that sets them apart from the rest of the crowd. Why settle for an average pizza when you can have one that comes really close to perfection?
Is it still the fastest growing chain?
Pieology was named the top pizza restaurant as well as the fastest growing chain in the US, but have they been able to reach their goals and are they still expanding at such a rapid pace? We were interested in learning more about how Pieology has been faring over the past few years so we checked with Bloomberg.com to see what they had to say. As of May 28, 2019, Pieology is still offering fanchise opportunities and we did see that Carl Chang, the founder is still the Chief Executive Officer of the chain. We also noticed that there is no board of directors listed for the company, which was a bit surprising to us. We had assumed that once the company began making acquisitions that they would grow large and perhaps go for their initial public offering. While the competition Blaze has already submitted their initial public offering, Pieology has not yet quite caught up to their level and it has not submitted its IPO, so you won't find any information about the company on the stock exchange, that is not yet but they're still growing and expanding.
New investors in Pieology
We discovered that Panda Express has made a sizable investment in the Pieology restaurant chain. The owners of the Panda Express chain of Chinese restaurants have bought a minority stake in the rapidly growing fast-casual chain Pieology Pizzeria. The c6 ompany bought a minor stake in the pizzeria restaurants which is a boost for their budget to continue growing. The investment took place early in 2016. In 2017, Kevin Durant also purchased a share of Pieology but the amount of the investment that he has made was not disclosed.
Changes in executive leadership and continued growth
We also recently learned that the job of CEO has transferred to Gregg Imamoto. The pizzeria chain has also added some new options to their menu, including a plant based protein that is being used as a substitute for meats for those who are not fond of eating animal products. This shows that Pieology is still changing and evolving in an effort to cater to their customers and provide them with healthy options, in whatever way that they want their pizza served. They've also moved into new locations including a non-traditional college campus environment, and they're even offering special discounts with a "National Pi Day" and a cheese pulling contest.In case you were wondering if Pieology is still on the move, the answer is that they haven't gone anywhere, with the exception of opening new locations in the United States as well as one in the country of Spain.
Pieology did close some units
There was concern over the closure of some of Pieology's restaurants. This happened in early 2018. It's nothing to be concerned about as the company needed to do some restructuring. Only six of their locations were closed and it was in order for Pieology to focus upon their franchising. These were all locations which were owned by the company. Pieology executives made the decision that a strategic restructuring of the company was in order and they closed the company owned restaurants as their new push is to move more towards franchised operations. There is also a larger focus upon international expansion with just two units open in locations outside of the United States. They've made it as far as Iowa and Utah, with recent additions in New York City with target locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
At the last count, Pieology has a total of 140 locations open throughout the United States and two in foreign countries. They're still opening new locations, although there has been a lot of changes since they first opened their doors in 2011. The founder has maintained the original concept that the pizza chain was based upon and they're continually making improvements to become even more customer-centric. With Pieology, it's all about making their guests feel at home in a positive environment that puts people at ease and allows their creative juices to flow. They encourage guests to use their imaginations when customizing their pizzas and taking pictures to post on social media to show off their creations. There aren't many pizza chains around that sell customized pizzas with unlimited toppings for $8 bucks, but it's their claim to fame.They're still as unique in the pizza world as they were when they first made their appearance in the fast food business. Pieology hasn't lost an inch of ground. Although they've not gone public yet, they do have investors buying stakes in the company, and they have not yet caught up to the likes of Dominos or Blaze, but they're certainly holding their own in the industry and they're breathing heavily down the necks of the competition. Will Pieology make good on the expectations for catching up and surpassing the leaders in the pizza restaurant chain industry? That remains to be seen, but they still maintain a forceful trajectory and we'd wager that the odds are on their side.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson