In May, Brix Holdings LLC announced it was adding RedBrick Pizza to its roster of restaurant brands, which also includes Smoothie Factory and Red Mango. When the acquisition was finalized, CEO Joe Vitrano said Brix Holdings' objective is to add "promising concepts, enhance the product offering, upgrade the brand and expand nationally and internationally."
RedBrick got its start in California by founder and longtime Little Caesars franchisee Jim Minidis. The fast casual pizza brand experienced its heyday in 2006-2007 when it had about 60 units and was recognized as a top emerging concept by numerous publications, including PizzaMarketplace.com.
Minidis started franchising and set an ambitious goal of reaching 12,000 units in 10 years. Shortly thereafter, however, a handful of lawsuits were filed by disgruntled franchisees and RedBrick's expansion goals fell short by a mile.
Seven years later, Brix Holdings is hoping for a resurgence under President Miguel Foegal's leadership. In a recent interview, Foegal said RedBrick will be "better and bigger than ever." PizzaMarketplace.com had the chance to talk to Foegal about how he plans to reach these new goals.
PizzaMarketplace.com: What is the general post-acquisition plan for RedBrick?
Miguel Foegal: Because Brix targets for acquisition companies that have unique and high-quality products, we do not feel that we have to make wholesale changes with RedBrick Pizza. We have made a few changes to the menu. Primarily, we have streamlined the menu, expanded the salad offerings, added some exciting new appetizers, and added a couple of very temping new desserts. We have made a few decor changes as well, but we have maintained an atmosphere that is family friendly.
Brix is in the franchise business, and that's how we intend to grow the RedBrick Pizza chain. We are confident in our ability to open at least 25 new units in 2015.
PizzaMarketplace.com: Twenty-five locations in 12 months seems ambitious. Is there an urgency?
MF: As a franchisor, it's imperative that we make sure our growth is managed, measured, and sustainable. We actually don't think that 25 units is overly aggressive, especially when you consider that we intend to make targeted acquisitions as well. With so much of the existing pizza business being takeout and delivery, and many of the newer players featuring single serve, personal size pizza, we think there is an opportunity and need for the mid-price, family atmosphere pizza restaurants.
PizzaMarketplace.com: Are any markets being targeted specifically?
MF: We already have market presence in California, Texas, and Florida. We would like to continue to grow in those existing markets. We look to gain a foothold in other South to Mid-state areas such as Arizona, Louisiana, Arkansas and Colorado. Additionally, we have recently acquired a few locations that will introduce our presence into the Midwest. Finally, we intend to break ground this year on a new location in New York.
PizzaMarketplace.com: How will the brand leverage the private equity ownership for growth?
MF: First and foremost, because we concentrate on growth via franchising, Brix prospers when our franchisees prosper. So we are fully focused on franchisee training and field support. We are fully engaged in assisting the franchisee with site location, construction, training, and will provide a high level of ongoing field support.
Our Franchise Support Managers will work closely with each franchisee to assist them in maximizing their restaurant's sales and profitability with mutually agreed upon local store business plans.
We didn't acquire the RedBrick Pizza Brand with the goal of co-branding, but some of our existing franchisees are already inquiring about diversifying their growth through adding one of our other franchise brands into their portfolio.
PizzaMarketplace.com: What are the main elements of the brand's new prototypes?
MF: The biggest change is that the making and baking of our pizzas will become a centerpiece. The customer queuing area will feature a lower counter and a larger clear visibility sneeze guard. This will make it easier for the customer to see our gourmet toppings and cheeses being applied to their pizza selection. Then they will see their selection being placed into our proprietary brick oven where it will be cooked at 750 degrees for 2 to 3 minutes.
The furniture will be updated, but our booths will still have the TV monitors we have become known for. The kids can enjoy watching their favorite kids TV station and the grown ups get a chance to chat.
PizzaMarketplace.com: Are shopping malls in the growth plan? If so, how do you manage a dwindling mall crowd that has hurt other brands, such as Sbarro?
MF: Shopping Malls aren't a target per se, but at Brix, we pride ourselves in being able to assist our franchisees in adapting the build out to most any site, be it freestanding, airports or shopping malls.
We have just signed leases for five shopping mall locations. In each location, we will conduct an extensive remodel and build out to insure that our customers are able to consume the same high quality artisan pizzas that our freestanding, full-size locations offer. This will include removing any existing common commercial ovens and installing our unique and proprietary brick ovens.
We believe our high quality and affordable menu items will attract not only mall shoppers, but mall employees as well as nearby local customers seeking a great lunch, snack or dinner.
PizzaMarketplace.com: How will the brand market itself ahead of new openings?
MF: First of all, during construction, we will have our ‘coming soon RedBrick Pizza' banners. From our Red Mango experience, we are big believers of social marketing, and will utilize that extensively. In addition, we will use more traditional marketing strategies such as print ads, coupons and direct mail. We will also highlight the location on our website, redbrickpizza.com.
PizzaMarketplace.com: The fast casual pizza segment is growing quickly; how will you differentiate yourself? Do you see a saturation point?
MF: When my kids were little, once a week, the family went out to one of the local pizza restaurants in the neighborhood. It seems like most neighborhoods had them and for many families like ours, it was a frequent place to visit, whether it was after little league, after seeing a movie or just for Pizza Night. Most of those places seemingly are gone now, replaced with the multitude of takeout and delivery locations that have sprouted up during the last 15 years or so. At RedBrick, we believe there is still a great need for that local, mid-priced, family friendly restaurant that serves great pizza. That's what RedBrick Pizza brings to the table. We believe many entrepreneurs looking for an affordable franchise that just makes sense and has an existing niche opportunity will find us to be an appealing choice.
PizzaMarketplace.com: How will you try to avoid the franchising perils that befell the brand in 2006-07?
MF: Again, measured and managed growth. We need to initiate entry into a market and continue to focus and gain market share there. We will present to franchisees an ongoing support system which will include frequent visits, a dedication to improving product costs and operational efficiencies Finally, we have to continually be refining our products and introduce innovative new items that appeal to the customer.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.