• Dewey's Pizza expands in Ohio; next stop St. Louis

CINCINNATI -- Dewey's Pizza plans to expand to St. Louis following an expansion to nearby Ohio cities, Dayton and Columbus.

According to the Cincinnati Business Courier, Andrew DeWitt, president of the three-store chain, which he founded in 1998, wants to move westward where his father, Bill DeWitt Jr., owns the St. Louis Cardinals.

Currently two Dewey's are located in Southern Ohio; one is in Newport, Ky., immediately across the river from Cincinnati, where another is slated to open this summer. DeWitt also is considering sites near Nationwide Arena in Columbus and in Dayton as part of a second-tier local expansion plan throughout Ohio.

"Our plan is to open up in St. Louis next year," DeWitt told the Courier. "We're following the Outback (Steakhouse) model, where we give a manager a piece of the action and an opportunity to be not only an owner of an individual restaurant, but the whole city."

To ensure a uniform expansion, networked POS systems will be installed at every store to allow store performance analysis from the company's headquarters.

"We don't yet have that capability," said DeWitt. "When we do, we'll have the kind of controls in place that we need."

Dewey's Pizza employs 40 at each of its three stores. DeWitt wouldn't share financial performance but said his flagship store sells nearly $8,000 in food and beverage on busy weekend nights. In that store alone, more than $1 million in beer and wine was sold in that store's first full year, 1999, a figure that's grown annually. Thirty percent of its current business is takeout orders.

"My strategy is not to saturate the market. We don't want to be perceived as a LaRosa's," said DeWitt, referring to a 50-store pizza chain that dominates the Cincinnati market. "They're a hometown chain and an institution here in Cincinnati. We could never be them, and we don't want to."

His goal, DeWitt insists, is to continue to recreate the magic found at the original store.

"Our vision is to be a niche player with really high perceived value, a great product and great service," he said. "Presumably, our concept can work in other cities. The variable is getting the right people."

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