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Operations

Westside Pizza focuses on fresh food, franchising

Boise, Idaho-based Westside Pizza has 38 units. Learn how franchising and food have become two major tenets of the company's focus.

Westside Pizza focuses on fresh food, franchisingProvided


| by Mandy Wolf Detwiler — Managing Editor, Networld Media Group

Westside Pizza is a regional chain with 38 stores. With a growing brand that size, it can be difficult to control quality and consistency across the company, especially doing so much onsite. Dough is made fresh in-house daily. If it's not used by 4 p.m. the next day, it's tossed out. Marinara sauce is made in-house as well using fresh-pack tomatoes rather than a tomato concentrate. Mozzarella is grated off the block daily and vegetables are chopped onsite.

The pizza is a pan-style, though a thin crust is available. Top sellers include the Westside, which features pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives, onions and green peppers, and the Death by Pizza, a massive signature pizza that features pepperoni, Canadian bacon, sausage, pineapple, beef, mushrooms, olives, onions, green peppers and bacon.

Wings are also a popular choice, and Westside offers both bone-in and boneless versions. The company's tagline "It's all about the pizza" was recently spoofed to promote wings, using "It's all about the wings."

For National Wing Day, which happened in July, the brand did half-priced wings as a promotion to help get its new wings flavors out to customers. "It's definitely becoming a bigger segment of our menu," Jeff Roberts, director of development said. "Our wings are pretty popular."

Westside Pizza sells both bone-in and boneless wings.

"My partners have done a good job with" consistency across the brand, Roberts added.

The brand does three on-site evaluations a year with a company representative visiting stores doing full walk-throughs. They're checking for temperatures, recipes and quality control, and they take pictures from the outside of the store to the inside.

"We let them know we're coming so we have a chance to do some coaching with the franchisee or the management team," Roberts said.

A third-party company is also hired to do four secret shoppers per store per year.

Sales are monitored remotely, and franchisee data can be shared via POS and their QuickBooks online. Proprietary software also syncs with the brand's POS system with Revel.

"It pulls all that data together and identifies stores that might be having problems," Roberts said. "That gives us a chance to contact (franchisees) and follow up with them."

Franchising efforts

Westside Pizza was founded in Colville, Washington, in 1996 before moving operations to Boise in 2015. Four of the company's stores are corporate owned and 34 are franchised. Stores are located across Washington, with a handful in Northern California, Idaho, Utah and Lubbock, Texas.

Roberts said a franchisee will move into a new area, everyone will enjoy the pizza and then "other people come on board and grow the brand there. When we see a new Sysco warehouse (go into an area) it's funny to see the brand expand in that area as people discover our brand and our franchise."

The brand has a variety of floor plan options ranging from the small Westside Pizza Go which has a limited menu and 12 to 16 seats with 1,200 square feet, to the 4,000 square feet in a traditional Westside Pizza, which has a full menu and liquor license.

Westside Pizza has a variety of layouts available for franchisees.

The company is looking to expand in the Western third of the U.S. Roberts said Westside Pizza isn't interested in expanding to the East Coast yet. They're looking at western Montana, Oregon, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona.

As long as there's a Sysco in the area and a franchisee is qualified, Westside is interested in expanding.

In 2021, Westside opened two locations. There are four that will be opened by the end of 2022. There are 18 additional open licenses to be developed over 2023 and 2024. A few more corporate stores in the Boise area are also expected to open. AUV sits at $843,000.

"We're experiencing a lot of growth since the end of COVID here," Roberts said. "What we've seen the last few years is a pickup in people wanting larger areas, doing larger area development deals."

Westside had two different families in Washington buy deals for up to five stores each, and had a Texas family buy a deal for 10 stores.

"There's a lot of things that attract franchisees to our brand," Roberts said, including being a lower-cost company that charges a 4% royalty and 1% marketing fees compared to 6% and 4-5% at a national chain. "We're offering the franchisees more value by keeping our royalties and our national marketing down, but we're still giving them the same level of buying power (and) the same level of support. … Our definite focus is expanding the franchise."

When asked what sets Westside apart from its competition, Roberts said the brand is an "easy-going" franchisor. When someone applies to be a franchisee, the owner sees it right away. The brand is still small enough so that Rodney Nelson, president and head of franchise development, Aaron Olson, chief operating officer, and Roberts are still active in the day-to-day operations of the company. Franchisees have all of their mobile phone numbers, and the requirements to become a franchisee are lower.

"We look more at the person and what their goals are, so we're more open to working with the people that the big brands wouldn't," Roberts added.

"People just love the product. If they've grown up with it and been around it and they look into franchising, they're just really excited about it. I think the quality of the product is what gets people interested."



Mandy Wolf Detwiler

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the site editor for PizzaMarketplace.com and QSRweb.com. She has more than 20 years’ experience covering food, people and places.
 
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years’ experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size business in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning, and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living. 

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