Athens-based Your Pie is coming to a well known restaurant space in Buckhead. Your Pie plans to open later this year in the former Johnny Rockets at 5 West Paces Ferry Road in the heart of Buckhead. For a short time in 2012, the restaurant space was Lime Fresh Mexican Grill, but closed less than a year later. I had originally reported that Antico Pizza Napoletana was interested in this space, but those plans fell apart long ago. Separately, Don Antonio by Starita opened a few weeks ago in the former STG Trattoria, across the street from the upcoming Your Pie.
Your Pie was started in Athens by 24 year old Drew French in 2008. Today, the chain has 18 locations across four states: Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. Georgia is the largest market, with eleven open and others like Buckhead in the pipeline. Amazingly, Your Pie has four locations in Athens alone.
Georgia Oak Partners made an investment of an undisclosed amount in Your Pie this past August, in hopes of helping it grow to 100 locations in two years.
Your Pie is a similar concept to that of Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint, started by Matt Andrew and Tony Lewis in Atlanta in 2009. Both restaurants offer a slight upgrade in quality from the likes of Domino's and Pizza Hut, with increased customization options. Pizzas at both Uncle Maddio's and Your Pie average about $7 although Uncle Maddio's personal pies are 9" whereas Your Pies are 10".
Uncle Maddio's has 18 locations open across six states with thirteen locations in Georgia. Uncle Maddio's already has a Buckhead location at Powers Ferry Square which opened in late 2012.
This past December, Nation's Restaurant News published a rather informative story about the fast casual pizza trend, new players in the market, and growth prospects. Among the more notable players are Chipotle, Rick Wetzel of Wetzel's Pretzels and a pair of former CPK executives. (Neither Your Pie nor Uncle Maddio's were mentioned in the report)
In December, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced a partnership with the creators of Pizzeria Locale, a full-service pizza concept in Boulder, Colorado. A fast-casual version of the full-service pizza restaurant opened in Denver last May, with two more planned for 2014.
In 2012, Rick Wetzel, co-founder and president of Wetzel’s Pretzels with his wife Elise Wetzel, started Blaze Fast Fire’d Pizza. The chain has grown to ten units in four states with plans for an additional 45 locations in 2014 in at least eight more states.
Larry Flax and Rick Rosenfield, the co-founders and former chief executives of California Pizza Kitchen, plan to open an as yet unnamed fast casual pizza shop. The new shop, positioned for franchise growth, will open first in southern California, and then expand via malls and lifestyle centers, where Flax and Rosenfield have existing contacts.
By my count, there are over a dozen multi-unit and/or franchised concepts in the fast casual pizza segment. There would seem to be higher barriers to entry in pizza than in frozen yogurt, but there seems to the same kind of fervor for market domination.
How many fast casual pizza joints have you visited? Which is your favorite? Do you prefer artisan or Napoletana pizzas to quick serve options?
Please share your thoughts.