Peek inside Straw Hat Pizza's new pizza-and-yogurt prototype

Sept. 30, 2010

When the first co-branded Straw Hat Pizza and Tower 27 debuts October 7 in Walnut Creek, Calif., customers will experience the company's new build-your-own yogurt concept – and the 51-year-old pizza legend's makeover.

“We felt the image was a bit dated,” said president Jonathan Fornaci. “We wanted more earth tones, more upscale.” Fornaci worked with California-based Duke Marketing company to re-image the growing brand.

As the casual dining chain opens new locations across the nation, the footprints are getting larger as well. In Dallas, the company is constructing a restaurant that will be an estimated 6,000 square feet. The location will feature a full bar, rather than just serve the chain's traditional offering of beer and wine.

That move, along with the makeover, speaks to the brand’s evolving position as a more sophisticated family-dining restaurant. Fornaci said the plethora of TVs in each location – including one in each booth – will entertain the kids while their parents catch up and grab a drink.

Tower 27 yogurt

The brand's newly engineered build-your-own soft serve concept, with its six flavors and 27 toppings, also is a big part of that positioning. Tower 27 fits perfectly with the family-oriented crowd Straw Hat gets on the weekends: softball teams, birthday parties, etc. More important, it will help fill the pizza concept’s soft dayparts.

“We wanted to find something that wouldn’t cannibalize sales, but would drive dayparts,” Fornaci said. The restaurant typically gets packed for a buffet lunch, then slows before the 5 p.m. dinner rush. “So think about yogurt – most people won’t eat it for lunch, but business men and women want a snack like that between meals.”

It’s also an attractive option for mothers picking up kids from school, especially because non-fat yogurt is a healthier alternative to other grab ‘n’ go options.

The Tower 27 brand will be co-located with some Straw Hat Pizza locations, but also can be a stand-alone model with a very low cost to entry. “With this concept, for $65,000 you can have a store open and pay back your investment in less than six months,” he said. Stand-alone units can be as small as 750 square feet.

For those existing franchisees who want a Tower 27 added, it’s about a $25,000 retrofit; however, the added revenue per square foot is attractive math, Fornaci said. 

“So many concepts across the board have a rent factor of 15- to 20-plus percent. We stick to the eight to 10 percent rent square factor. This only adds an extra (500 or so) square feet, but $20,000 in monthly revenue.”

(Click the picture for a full slideshow.)

Topics: Food & Beverage , Franchising & Growth , Restaurant Design / Layout , Systems / Technology

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