How Patxi's became the fastest growing private restaurant company in the U.S.

San Francisco-based Patxi's began in 2004, when entrepreneur Bill Freeman teamed up with pizza maker Francisco "Patxi" Azpiroz. Now the company boasts 11 locations, two in the Denver market and the rest around the Bay Area.

This year, Inc. Magazine named Patxi's as the 24th fastest-growing privately held company in the U.S. in the food and beverage category of its annual 5000 list. The ranking was good enough to put the brand atop all other restaurant concepts on the list, and No. 1215 overall.

Patxi's, which specializes in Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, has experienced a three-year growth rate of 342 percent, with $14.2 million in revenue. In 2009, the brand's revenues were $3.2 million. The company has added 298 jobs in the past three years and now employs 418 people.

PizzaMarketplace.com had the opportunity to talk to Freeman about how the brand topped all restaurant concepts on the list, whether or not the fast casual pizza subsegment poses a competitive threat and future technology initiatives.

PizzaMarketplace: Considering the number of pizza concepts in the U.S., did it surprise you that Patxi's is the only one on this year's Inc. 5000?

Bill Freeman: I thought there would have been a few other pizza concepts in the fast casual space on the list; however, I am not surprised we are the only 'Polished Casual' pizza concept on the list.

It really shows how our brand resonates with our customers. Our team is working very hard to build a great company and this recognition makes them feel proud of their work.

PizzaMarketplace: In your opinion, how did Patxi's get to become the fastest-growing private restaurant company in the U.S.?

BF: In 2009 we decided that we were going to build a world class company that just happened to be in the restaurant business. Since then we have worked diligently to accomplish that goal. The response from our guests in new markets gave us the confidence to accelerate our growth. People want better pizza and for the second year in a row we have been voted the best pizza in San Francisco, a very competitive market.

PizzaMarketplace: What strategies have worked for Patxi's that may not be working for others?

BF: We believe that putting Better before Cheaper, and Revenue before Cost is the key to longterm success.

PizzaMarketplace: With so many up-and-coming, top-your-own, fast casual brands planning aggressive growth, do you consider this trend to be good for the pizza segment overall? Do you see a bubble?

BF: The exposure can't hurt. The more people are thinking about pizza the better. Execution will be the key. Just like the better burger segment, there will be winners and losers.

PizzaMarketplace: With so many new concepts entering the space, how will Patxi's continue to differentiate itself?

BF: Through the quality and variety of our pizza. We constantly innovate and make a better experience for our guests.

PizzaMarketplace: What are Patxi's growth plans at this time?

BF: We plan to open six new units in four markets by the end of 2014.

PizzaMarketplace: Are there any other initiatives on the horizon for the company?

BF: We are in the process of launching proprietary software called Pic-a-Pie where our customers will be able to claim pizzas already in the oven at peak times. The system works through a predictive algorithm we developed and automatically fires orders into the kitchen. The pizzas are then displayed on tablets in the restaurant and through online ordering. People can claim a pizza they like and reduce wait/delivery times.

Read more about operations management and growth.

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