SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza was founded in 2005 in Kansas City, Mo., and quickly became a local – and regional – favorite.
With just four locations (and two more under construction), the small chain boasts a handful of accolades. Among them are "Rest of the 101 Best Restaurants" in the nation by TheDailyMeal.com, Best of Show by the Mid America Design Awards and Best Pizza by numerous Greater Kansas City publications.
Perhaps that's why co-owners Gail and Richard Lozoff and Edwin Brownell believe that now is the right time to grow the concept. They would know how to time such a thing. They also developed Bagel & Bagel, which started in Kansas City, Mo., and eventually became Einstein Bros. Bagels.
Armed with a menu created in collaboration with James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Smith, the trio ambitiously pointed to Los Angeles for their initial foray into a new market. SPIN!'s first agreement has been signed with Craig Hofman, a veteran restaurateur who owns 15 Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ's in California, Arizona and Nevada.
Hofman and SPIN! plan to develop 35 units throughout Southern California. Hofman said he initially wanted to create his own Neapolitan pizza concept, but was so impressed with SPIN!'s, he joined the team instead.
"Their great pizzas and salads were so good that I did not think I could improve the recipes. The culture of quality and excellence that Ed, Gail and Richard have created fits well with our core values for operating recipes," he said.
Likewise, the SPIN! team was impressed enough with Hofman's experience to sign him up as the inaugural franchisee.
"When we were introduced to the Lucille's culture and operations, we felt it reflected SPIN!'s and were comfortable that they would do a great job with our brand. Our hope is that a California presence will give SPIN! additional visibility," Brownell said.
The right time to franchise
Gail Lozoff said now is the right time for SPIN! to franchise because there is an opportunity to build value in the brand as the clientele base grows. The executive team chose franchising as its expansion vehicle for several reasons, including a desire to develop a presence in populated markets so partners can create that value easier.
"We wanted to partner with excellent restaurant operators who have a stake in creating success for the SPIN! brand," Gail Lozoff said. "In order to enter a high profile and populated market such as L.A., we felt that it was important to have a partner who really knows the market and has significant relationships there."
Lozoff adds that SPIN! is unique in that many small-footprint restaurant franchisors use a rapid market penetration strategy to build a national brand, often addressing local level brand building as an afterthought.
"Our concept is designed to successfully market each location by offering a distinctive experience as a local neighborhood spot. We believe that SPIN! will become a strong national brand by building strong local restaurants," she said.
SPIN! plans on finding other restaurateurs such as Hofman to grow the concept in other strategically located markets. Currently there are no specific markets in mind.
The SPIN! concept
Lozoff said the company may try and adapt its menu and marketing strategies to the SoCal market, but those plans aren't clear yet. Considering Hofman's initial attraction to the brand, however, many signatures will likely stay put.
SPIN! was created because of the co-founders' passion for pizza, salad and wine.
In addition to a variety of hand-spun traditional thin-and-bubbly crust, rustic whole wheat, and gluten-free stone fired pizzas, SPIN! serves an array of appetizers, soups, salads, signature Panini and Italian deli sandwiches, and gelato ice creams. All of SPIN!'s soups, salad dressings, pizza toppings and ingredients are prepared daily from fresh produce and meats.
SPIN!'s pizza dough is made fresh every day using several types of flour including one specially imported from Italy. All the toppings – such as mushrooms, caramelized onions, tomatoes, artichokes, chicken sausage and pancetta (Italian bacon) – are roasted each morning in a stone hearth oven. A variety of cheeses are hand grated.
The menu features both traditional Pizza Rossa (red pizzas with crushed roma tomato base) and Pizza Bianca (white pizzas with roasted olive oil glaze). SPIN! also serves a variety of premium wines.
In addition, Lozoff says that SPIN!'s customer and community focused operations will support its success outside its home market.
"We believe strongly that the building of relationships with staff, guests and our community is key to our success. Programs like our SPIN! Club were created to enhance relationships and communication both inside and out of our restaurants and have been integrated into our operational systems since we opened," she said.
Some examples include SPIN!'s partnership with Nonprofit Connect, its Tour de BBQ Pizza to benefit cancer research efforts and gift card donations to local food banks.
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Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.