• FE&S' 2014 DSR of the Year: Jason Sem

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W hen the economy tanked seven years ago, innovation became the panacea that was going to cure everyone's fiscal ills. Business leaders and politicians tripped over each other in a race to the microphone to let everyone know they were ready to lead the charge toward innovation, which ultimately would spark the economic growth the U.S. so desperately needed to break free from its economic tailspin.

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jMartinez
Juan Martinez

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jStiegler
Jerry Stiegler

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Consumers kept a tight grip on their wallets in July, according to the U.S. Commerce Department but restaurant sales kept chugging along. Also, the NPD Group provides an update on unit growth while another study finds foodservice management optimistic about the future though they expressed some concerns about the Sysco/US Foods merger.

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Greg Christian
Greg Christian

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Highlights

Chain Innovators: Extreme Pizza

Extreme Pizza's take-and-bake business was launched in 1994 and didn't take off as anticipated — and after six months company founder Todd Parent was not above tweaking the concept.

Extreme PizzaExtreme Pizza ultimately became a fast-casual specialty pizza operator that capitalizes on the newest equipment and technology to stay true to its smaller footprint.

"We started with deck ovens, but there were challenges operationally, so we realized these would not work for us," Parent says. "Our vendor introduced us to conveyor ovens, which improved our speed of service. We also switched from hand-rolling dough to using sheeters, which increased our throughput."

Although Extreme Pizza's small footprints have helped keep costs down during the turbulent economy, one of the chain's franchisees recently launched a full-service site that has become one of the chain's best-producing units.

"We launched this larger concept, going with our 'never say never' attitude, after a franchisee in Wilmington, Del., came to us with the idea," Parent says. "It's nice to know this model variation works really well."

Extreme Pizza's concept stemmed from Parent's love of the outdoors and extreme sports. He had an epiphany after visiting France and seeing crepe stands on every corner. "While I knew the U.S. wasn't ready for a crepe revolution, it was my inspiration. There was incredible food at a reasonable price on every corner, and I wanted to bring that back to the states," Parent says.

The menu's 20 signature pizzas each have a subtle story that led to their creation. For example, the popular Pandora's Box Mediterranean-style pie that includes garlic, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and feta, gets its name from both Greek mythology and an epic Colorado ski run.

Extreme Pizza's research and development team regularly produces new pizza varieties and looks to customers for suggestions. Quarterly contests between corporate store managers and franchisees provide a steady stream of innovative ideas so the brand remains fresh.

Fast Facts

  • Year founded: 1994
  • Headquarters: San Francisco
  • Menu specialties: Gourmet pizza, salads, sandwiches, calzones, wings, desserts
  • Service Model: Quick service, fast-casual
  • Units: 41
  • 2010 sales: $21 million
  • 2010 growth: Revenue grew by 6 percent and the company experienced unit growth of 10 percent.
  • Projected 2011 growth: 11 percent revenue growth, 25 units expected to open this year
  • Key expansion markets: Southern California, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia
  • Average unit size: 1,400–1,800 sq. ft.
  • Average kitchen space: 800–1,000 sq. ft.
  • Average covers per day: 120
  • Average check: $22
  • Total equipment investment per unit: $80,000–$100,000 (includes POS)
  • Total unit cost: $150,000 (approximately)

Key Players

  • President and CEO: Todd Parent
  • Director of Store Operations: Derrick Wiley (San Francisco and Peninsula stores)
  • Marketing Director: Nicole Lomonaco
  • Human Resources: Suzanne Duhig
  • Operations & East Bay Stores: Matt Thornton
  • Smallwares & Equipment: TriMark Economy and Avanti Restaurant Solutions
  • Food Distributor: US Food
  • Architect: Torres Architects
  • Design: Nicole Lomonaco & Torres Architects
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