New pizza concept in the oven in Atlanta.
A new "artisan" pizza restaurant is scouting Atlanta for its first locations. Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads, an Atlanta-based restaurant without any physical location, has plans for at least two restaurants in metro Atlanta in the coming months.
While another site inaccurately reported that Rize was opening a physical restaurant at 1510 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard, that address will instead serve as the company's "Restaurant Support Center."
Interestingly, in the past few weeks, that other site has corrected their careless error, and more recently Rize seems to have suspended or deleted their facebook page from which the other site obtained their information. Rize does still have active Twitter and Instagram pages, but each has been quiet for months.
According to its website, "Rize was born from a passion for pizza, hospitality and great food prepared the right way."
"As hospitality experts with relentless spirit and a true love for our craft, we created this unique concept that will disrupt the fast casual dining world."
From what I've heard from a number of industry sources, Rize is aiming to be a family friendly, high quality, full service, economically priced, pizza restaurant. Plans reportedly call for the restaurant to offer assorted salads and gelato in addition to the many pizza options. Rize has no intention of being a "me-too" player in the quick serve pizza space, currently led by Blaze Pizza, Pieology and others like Atlanta's Uncle Maddio's Pizza.
While the plans for Rize sound good, the menu and plan sound eerily similar to another would-be pizza chain, Treza. Longtime ToNeTo readers will recall the struggles of Treza, which had hoped to become a growth concept in the upscale-casual pizza space. Opening in 2011 at TOWN Brookhaven, Treza offered gourmet pizza, gelato and assorted salads and tried to be very similar to what Rize is apparently trying to be. While Treza offered counter service rather than table service, the similarities in their growth ambitions and menu are uncanny. After closing briefly in 2012 to attempt a rebranding, Treza closed permanently in early 2014.
John D. Smith lists himself as Founder & CEO Rize Holdings, LLC ("A private equity backed holding company formed to acquire, develop and operate branded restaurant concepts with the potential to scale to a national footprint) on his LinkedIn page. The Rize website lists Smith as Founder CEO of Rize Artisan Pizza. While I found Smith challenging to deal with in my one conversation with him, I'm left to assume that Rize Holdings is the holding company in which Rize Artisan Pizza is being held, and with luck, grown.
Prior to founding Rize, Smith was "President, Mid-North Region/General Manager Caesars Entertainment Corporation."
Ryan Coppola, listed as Vice President of Operations at Rize Holdings, is another Caesars Entertainment alum, having reportedly held roles of Vice President and "Director of Beverage."
Peter deWeerdt, listed as "Digital Technology & Consumer Analytics" for Rize Holdings, comes to the pizza company from CVS Health where he was Director Digital Strategy - Connected Health Initiative. deWeerdt also spent time in leadership roles at both Payless ShoeSource and The Boston Consulting Group.
Jil Jordan Greene, listed as "Chief People Officer & Vice President, Human Resources" for Rize Holdings, was a 2012 "Woman of the Year Nominee" by the New Orleans CityBusiness, according to her LinkedIn page.
Rize has reportedly hired marketing veteran Kim Jensen-Pitts as its Chief Marketing Officer. Jensen-Pitts has previously worked with a number of Atlanta-based restaurants including J. Christopher's, Ted's Montana Grill, Huey Luey Mexican Kitchen & Margarita Bar, Cheeseburger Bobby's, Marlow's Tavern, Figo Pasta, The Big Ketch and Willy's Mexicana Grill. Jensen-Pitts has also held marketing roles with Atlanta Bread Co. and Cracker Barrel. Interestingly, Jensen-Pitts' LinkedIn makes no mention of her role with Rize despite her claiming that she is the firm's "CMO." After over three weeks of waiting on a promised return phone call from Jensen-Pitts, I've decided to publish this post as is.
While no one at Rize would confirm it, well placed industry sources indicate that the company has expressed interest in sites in both Poncey-Highland and Sandy Springs. In Poncey-Highland, Rize is reportedly scouting a 3,500 square foot space in 675 North Highland, the new, roughly 120 unit apartment development near the corner of North Highland and Ponce de Leon Avenues. In Sandy Springs, Rize is reportedly looking at a similarly sized space in One City Walk, the new, roughly 200 unit apartment project "rising" at the corner of Hammond Drive and Roswell Road.
Although I was unable to confirm a timeline for the would-be locations, Rize is "Now Interviewing" for server positions via Atlanta-based hospitality job site, Hirewire.
Do you think either of the locations reported being scouted by Rize make sense for their concept? Where should Rize consider opening? Do you think Rize sounds too similar to Treza and is destined to suffer the same fate, or can they thrive where Treza struggled?
Please share your thoughts below.