The Pizza Press: Extra! Extra! How the odd pairing of newspapers and pizza built a successful brand

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Read all about how two seemingly unrelated concepts - pizza and newspapers - merged together to create a brand experience at Pizza Press that feels timeless, yet modern. With its mix of the old - a 1920's newsy theme, and the new - a fast casual build-your-own-pizza restaurant, the company found success in an odd pairing that ultimately defined its brand and attracted a customer base of locals and tourists.

Pizza Press, which opened in 2012, has since rapidly expanded to franchising and is set to open five more locations in the coming months. Founder and former international businessman Dara Maleki took on the tough challenge of catering to tourists in the Anaheim, California area when he launched his first store nearly three years ago. Within that time, the concept has taken off for the millennial owner. It's unusual theme is what helps differentiate it, but Maleki's millennial, entreprenerial spirit, which insisted on building "something that had heart," also contributed to the success of Pizza Press. We spoke with Maleki on how he created his brand and what he believes makes it successful.

Pizza Marketplace: How did you go from international business to pizza? Maleki: It was an instant transition for me. In my 20s, after going through different career choices, I really enjoyed travelling and decided to find business opportunities in other countries. Around 2011 I was looking for another venture because all the travel started wearing on me and something came up around my father's business. A QSR had closed, so I sold the shares of my business and with that capital and support from my father, I developed the idea of the Pizza Press.

I saw a need for quality of service, which I picked up in my younger years, and felt like that was something that needed to change in the industry. I wanted to create something that focused on taking care of guests. Tourists can be hard to please and they expect a lot - they've built up in their minds how their vacation should go and the smallest thing that goes awry can devastate that experience. Think about it: when you've saved up for 1 or 2 years for your vacation, you have high expectations. Pizza seemed like a great option and something fun, and with the assembly line trend of customizing your order picking up, we wanted to bring that to pizza.

Pizza Marketplace: Where did the 1920s newspaper theme and name come from? Maleki: The name came from what kind of brand we wanted and from the dough press. We played off the word "press," given some of my background working in printing and brought it to the turn of the century to create a "simpler times" feel to the brand.

Pizza Marketplace: What does that kind of theme do for your brand? Maleki: We're trying to build more than a color scheme and logo or cool theme. When people come in, I want them to wonder if Pizza Press is corporate-owned or a franchise because it runs so seamlessly. I want guests to see that customer service standards are there, and that it's about the experience.

We've really played off the newsy theme, naming pizzas after regional newspapers like The Tribune in Chicago with Chicago-style pizza, Italian flavored sauces, pepperoni, Kalamata olives, and other robust flavors.

Other players in our field don't go beyond the three topping standard. We wanted to differentiate ourselves. If you're going to have signature pizzas, take them above and beyond and layer flavors. Its makes for a great experience. The Chronicle, a tribute to San Francisco, is olive oil based with goat cheese, basil, mushrooms, roasted garlic and pesto sauce drizzled on top.

To match our theme, our locations have a very restoration hardware feel with dark wood, brass, and an industrial sheik kind of decor to give it a timeless feel. There are no TVs in our place. It's nice to be able to show up and enjoy a meal and not have our eyes hopping from TV to TV. We play some great music instead to create the atmosphere.

I just wanted to do this right and build something special that had heart. We'll know as the trend continues to grow. It's exciting times.

Pizza Marketplace: What have you learned about building a customer base and starting a franchise? Maleki: I learned a lot in the first years through restaurant touring and success by using marketing tools like Facebook and Groupon and how those things are crucial to building up a customer base. But people kept asking if Pizza Press was a franchise and that demand was what pushed us.

There's always going to be someone bigger than you, but when you look at it in a grand scope, someone will always be in your position or they may have more experience or even be smarter, but that's what I took away from meeting with people from large chains: they're just like you. They have a team, or are working to assemble a team, so offer opportunities to those you meet, build relationships and execute your plan.

When you start offering opportunities is when you can truly start growing; that is my core belief, and that's how I went from one to two to the next five stores we're looking at opening. Offer opportunities to guy mopping floor, to guy making pizza and constantly share your vision. The more you do this, the more people will join your team and buy into your organization. This is necessary, especially with millennials. Everyone wants to be included and be a part of team. You should give your knowledge away for free. It costs you nothing, and it only helps others.

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RMS Franchise Group
2390 E. Orangewood Ave., #550
Anaheim, CA

Phone: (714) 323-7134
Toll Free: (844) 84-PRESS
Fax: (714) 991-5600

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