Mergin' and movin' out in the pizza universe

| by S.A. Whitehead
Mergin' and movin' out in the pizza universe

Six pizza brands are planning additions to their worldwide restaurant system pies this spring, along with two other brands who are set to merge, according to a series of news releases. 

The merger is occurring with Firenza and Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria, which are combining forces under the Firenza Pizza brand name. Collectively the two chains have 13 locations and the six Firenza sites will immediately be part of the merged operation, with additions this year. Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria has seven locations and will assume the Firenza name in 2018.  

"There is such a great excitement about these two companies coming together under the Firenza Pizza name," Firenza Pizza CEO Dave Wood said in a news release. "With an experienced leadership team, a high quality product, and incredible growth potential within this segment of the restaurant industry, we're incredibly enthusiastic about the momentum that Firenza Pizza is cooking up!"

As the man at the top of the newly merged group, Wood has more than 35 years of industry experience, including his time as a Domino's franchisee, while former Firenza president and now COO Dave Baer has put in a quarter-century in the "pie world," mostly with Domino's. They join world pizza champion and Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria creator, Glenn Cybulski, who will serve as executive chef and pizzaiolo of Firenza. Both former brands opening in in 2014. 

The expansions 
Two major players in the pizza world are expanding their Mexican footprints, beginning with Papa John's which is opening its 100th restaurant in the south-of-the-border nation, though no specific date was provided for the opening. The new restaurant in Zona Azul in Ciudad Satélite in the Mexico City metro area is operated by Orquest Foods. Last year, Orquest signed a development agreement to build 60 Domino's restaurants over the next eight years, beginning with seven stores this year alone.

Meanwhile, PizzaRev is opening of the first of 20 restaurants in Mexico this week, this one in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Other sites planned are in the states of Nayarit, Colima, Jalisco and Aguascalientes, all led by StarGDL Corporation, which currently owns and operates 12 Carl's Jr. restaurants in Guadalajara. The chain is also franchising in 17 states nationally. 

In Malaysia, Domino's Pizza is opening at least 30 stores this year alone, according to a news release. It already operates about 200 stores in Malaysia, with a goal of 300 stores opened by 2019's end. A news release said Domino's will also make a substantial technological investment in the area. 

Stateside now, management firm and parent company, EXOlifestyle Inc, said its subsidiary, Pizza Fusion, is opening its newest franchise location in Norfolk, Virginia in Old Dominion University's University Village this coming fall, according to a news release. 

This location is the brand's first with Aramark Food and Support Services Group, Inc., as  well as the first to open under a National Test License Agreement that the two companies made two years ago. 

"We've worked tirelessly over the past several years on fine-tuning this concept with the goal of providing guests an elevated experience and the same fun, energetic atmosphere we are known for, while doing an even better job at providing a simplistic presentation of 'healthy' options for this industry," CEO Vaughan Dugan said in a news release. 

The site is a former Starbucks and was recently refreshed by Miami's Saladino Design Studio for its new pizza-fied role. 

Meanwhile, Blaze Fast-Fire'd Pizza is opening its fifth Arizona location and and its second Edmonton, Alberta restaurant this week. Both the North Central Avenue store in Phoenix and the Brewery District location in Edmonton open Thursday, April 13. As is typically the case with an opening for this brand, a free build-your-own pizza day is set at each new store in their opening week. 

And finally, Pie Five is putting down stakes in York, Pennsylvania where its opening a Loucks Road store on Monday, April 17 under franchisee Peter Ballantine, formerly a McDonald's franchisee. 

"There's no restaurant in York that can deliver a handcrafted, personalized pie in just five minutes like we can," Ballantine said in a news release. 

As part of the opening celebration, the locations is donating all its proceeds from pre-opening events to a local organization helping kids with cancer, the Four Diamonds Fund. 

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Food & Beverage, Franchising & Growth, Operations Management, Pizza Sauce, Pizza Toppings, POS

Companies: Papa John's, Domino's

S.A. Whitehead

Award-winning veteran print and broadcast journalist, Shelly Whitehead, has spent most of the last 30 years reporting for TV and newspapers, including the former Kentucky and Cincinnati Post and a number of network news affiliates nationally. She brings her cumulative experience as a multimedia storyteller and video producer to the web-based pages of and after a lifelong “love affair” with reporting the stories behind the businesses that make our world go ‘round. Ms. Whitehead is driven to find and share news of the many professional passions people take to work with them every day in the pizza and quick-service restaurant industry. She is particularly interested in the growing role of sustainable agriculture and nutrition in food service worldwide and is always ready to move on great story ideas and news tips.

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