Clever Concepts – Pizza 585
I have no idea if this is going to work, but that is beside the point. When I first started GameTruck one of the first things someone asked me when we started to talk about franchising was, “Is it Pizza?” I was taken aback. “No,” I replied quickly. “Good,” The advisor replied. “I never want to hear another Pizza Pitch.”
That question reminded me of a time when I was sitting in a meeting with a very young vice president of Autodesk in England. At the time I thought the guy was ancient as I was only 24 and he was… like 30 or something. One foot in the grave.
We were peddling a software add on to AutoCAD called GTXRasterCAD. It let you scan your drawings and convert them into editable blue prints. At the time that was like magic. But the Vice President demanded, “It’s not a tablet is it?” He had seen a thousand tablet pitches. There was zero chance of standing out.
Every day entreprenuers face the impossible challenge of creating something new and familiar. If you make something that is too far outside peoples everyday experience, you have built yourself a problem. It’s called “Concept awareness.” Tivo suffered from this. People loved the device – the digital video recorder – but they could not evangalize it. Customers would say things like, “It lets you watch more TV!” Who the hell wants to watch more TV? The people who would most benefit from a Tivo did not understand what it was. They were not familiar with the concept. Today we take it for granted that you can pause live TV and rewind it, or skip the commercials, or record a thousand shows, but when Tivo came out, concept awareness was a major hurdle.
And then you go to the other extreme. We all know what Pizza is. How do you create innovation in Pizza? Or sandwhiches for that matter? This is one of the reasons I admire Jimmy John’s so much. They demonstrated there is still room for innovation in sandwhich shops. They demonstrated there is tremendous room to innovate if you can be new and familiar at the same time.
That brings me back to Pizza 585. A few weeks back I wrote about the Fractured Prune, a donut shop built upon the Cold Stone Cremery model. Well, welcome to Pizza 585 (much better name by the way). It is a pizza, pasta, salad joint built on the Subway model.
It is a clever innovation on two familiar principles. First, that people want choice, and secondly, that they need to move people fast. Here’s the concept. You walk up to the counter, order your pizza and you have unlimited toppings (sound fammiliar?). They take your personal 10 inch pizza and cook it in 5 minutes.
That is not a type-o. Five Minutes
Because the crusts are thing, the toppings are precooked. They essentially figured out that a pizza can be little more than toast with melted cheese on top. Their oven is designed to toast and broil simultaneously. Have you ever seen toast that takes longer than 5 minutes to make? Or cheese that takes longer than 5 minutes to melt in a broiler?
But the real magic is what I could call the YC Mongolian effect after my good friend and owner of YC’s. He talked about one of the best things is how people love to share their meals. They are proud of what they make. Pizza 585 plays on that idea. By having a wide range of base ingredients, Pizza 585 makes your pizza interesting, something you want to share. “here try a bite of mine!” the kids all said after their pies came out. Everyone was different. Every pizza delicious. It was more than eating, it was sharing.
The addition of Pasta and Salads were in hind-sight obvious. All the things we love on a Pizza also taste great on a Salad, or a pasta for that matter. What is Pizza sauce? It’s Pasta sauce on flat bread!
The pricing is spot on with what you would pay for a sub sandwhich.
Does this mean they will be successful?
I have no idea. Jimmy Johns has become a national phenomena as stores explode all over the United States. Jimmy Johns “So fast you’ll freak” gives them another amazing advantage. They have unbelievable throughput. They can move people through their lines. Consequently their revenue per square foot is unbelievable. What’s more, they have conditioned their clientel to keep moving. They won’t kick out out, but the vibe is get it, eat it, go. This churn gives them a fantastic revenue model. According to their latest FDD the average store can do $100,000 a month in revenue. That’s the average.
So will 5 minute pizzas make 585 a hit?
I am sure the owners will settle for just being profitable. But it’s too early to tell. What I do know is that it is the first new concept in Pizza I have seen in a long time, and that alone makes it worth checking out.