Sept. 13, 2010
On the eve of their second franchise opening, in Pizza Chain, USA (Louisville, Ky.), Naked Pizza debuted its systemwide store prototype for the second time to the world. The first franchise location opened in South Beach, Fla., in late August.
The most stunning features of the new stores include the flat-screen monitor “media walls” that convey the brand’s message of healthy pizza (hormone-free meats, close-to-home-grown veggies) and iPad ordering stations that capture customers’ e-mails, and where customers can also check in on Foursquare and tweet out from the restaurant. Co-founder Brock Fillinger said these components are a big part of the brand’s culture. “Every store is meant to educate people,” he said. “Letting them know we’re thinking about what we sell.”
The sleekness continues behind-the-scenes: patent-pending slab and make tables are engineered for better speed and efficiency.
These new technologically savvy systemwide stores look almost nothing like the original New Orleans hole-in-the-wall that New England Patriots owners The Kraft Group and Mark Cuban helped original founders parlay into a 300-store (signed, at least) franchised system. But what sets the concept apart even more from the big pizza chains, according to its team members, is the diversity of backgrounds in the chain’s new corporate makeup, and their individual freedoms to do things their way.
(Click picture for full peek inside Naked Pizza's second franchised location.)
For example, much attention has been placed on founder Jeff Leach’s anthropological background, which informs the nutritional makeup of the product. But many don’t know that co-founder and systems and supply chain guru Brock Fillinger was a philosophy major. Or that director of training, Alex Davila, is an engineer with a background that includes being a Domino’s franchisee in foreign markets like The Netherlands. In all, he spent 18 years with the brand. He said when he tasted Naked Pizza’s product, he told himself his time with No. 2 was over.
“Working for a big company, you get little input,” he reflected on the brands’ differences. “When I got to Naked Pizza headquarters in New Orleans, I was able to say what I was thinking.”
As director of training, Davila has had ample leeway to design his own program for new store openings. “We cover the basics deeply. The emphasis is on the order-taking process,” said Davila, who also stressed the importance placed on strict customer service standards. Those are heavy-hitting points for this pizzeria, whose contact points with customers are brief: 70 – 80 percent of its business is delivery, via phone or website ordering.
But franchisee and co-owner of the Louisville location, Larry Lawyer, is confident that his team of employees can deliver. He said he was amazed at the quality of applicants the concept attracted – college-educated people who were passionate about nutrition.
“Lots of the applicants will write paragraphs about the healthy nature of our pizza; (you know) they grasp it,” he said. “It’s part of the culture, that excitement from employees.”
*Slideshow photos by Joseph Grove.