|The recently shuttered Uncle Maddio's at McGowin Park in Mobile|
Problems persist for once promising chain
Atlanta-based Uncle Maddio's Pizza (the restaurant dropped the "joint" from its branding earlier this year) has sustained three more closures, one in Buckhead and two in Mobile, Alabama. The Buckhead restaurant, located on Roswell Road in Powers Ferry Square, opened in late 2012 and closed last month. (Jinya Ramen Bar will open in place of the Buckhead outpost next year)
Recently two franchised locations in Mobile posted signage announcing they were "temporarily closed until further notice." When reached for comment last week, a spokesperson for JUMP Restaurant Management (a subsidiary of Jubilee Restaurant Group), the franchisee of the two Mobile locations, would not confirm if or when the restaurants would reopen. The Mobile restaurant at McGowin Park, which just opened late this past May, announced via its Facebook page this weekend that both locations are in fact permanently closed.
"We are permanently closed in both locations. Thank you Mobile for all of you support. Please visit us in other locations and check us out on the web."
While lasting longer than the Mcgowan Park location, JUMP's other Mobile location opened last October, meaning it too lasted less than a year before closing.
JUMP operated another unit in nearby Daphne, Alabama, which was opened by another franchise group (which also earlier had development rights to the greater Mobile area) which closed previously.
Just last year JUMP signed a 13-unit development agreement with Uncle Maddio's to expand the chain across the Mid-South into markets like New Orleans, Baton Rouge and "greater Memphis." At the time of the announcement, the development was said to have been the largest development deal with a single group to date.
“We researched the fast-casual pizza segment for two-and-a-half years before choosing Uncle Maddio’s,” said Seth Hargett, founder and president of Jubilee Restaurant Group.
While Jubilee still lists Uncle Maddio's Pizza (Joint) on its website, there is no indication that the company will in fact continue with any previously announced expansion plans. In addition to Uncle Maddio's, Jubilee operates eleven Five Guys Burgers & Fries locations in four southern states.
As I have reported before, Uncle Maddio's has the pedigree, it was founded by Moe's Southwest Grill co-founder Matt Andrew, and the finances, last year Atlanta Hawks co-owner Rutherford Seydel invested in the company, but still it struggles.
The Buckhead closure comes on the heels of other local Uncle Maddio's closures in Ansley Mall and Edgewood Retail District, earlier this year.
The recent closures follow many others in the chain's dwindling store count. In addition to the aforementioned locations, Uncle Maddio's restaurants have closed in Sterling, VA, North Charleston, SC (opened late August 2015 and was closed by late June 2016), Toco Hills (the original), Alpharetta (Windward Parkway) , Woodstock, GA, Austin, TX and Louisville, KY.
The most recent entry under "news" on the Uncle Maddio's website is from last November when they announced the upcoming opening of a new location in Orlando.
The same release contained the following: "Operating 41 locations in 13 states, Uncle Maddio's has more than 250 units in development and is projected to double in size in 2015."
By my count, Uncle Maddio's current store count is 39 units, with another six "coming soon."
I say "by my count" as according to the website, the two Mobile restaurants are still open and a location expected to open "late 2014" in Loganville is still listed as "coming soon" despite the fact that the location was aborted months ago, before ever opening.
While it's unclear what information is up to date and or what can be believed, another Uncle Maddio's chest beating blurb reads "Since launching its aggressive growth plan in 2008, Uncle Maddio's has signed franchise agreements with 65 different entities in 18 states."
When Seydel made his investment in Uncle Maddio's last year, he gave an interview to QSR Magazine, a trade publication covering the Quick Serve Restaurant industry. Below is an excerpt from that article.
"Seydel also thinks that as the brand continues to expand, its staying power also increases. He concedes that the fast-casual pizza field is crowded, but at 38 units, Uncle Maddio’s is rapidly approaching the 50-unit mark, which Seydel considers the “magic number.” He says that once a brand opens 100 units, the chances of them sliding backwards are greatly reduced."
While I can't speak to other markets, it's curious that with such limited competition for make your own pizza options in the Atlanta area, that Maddio's is struggling the way it is. It would be more understandable if Blaze Pizza, Pizzeria Locale (the highly regarded pizzeria backed by Chipotle Mexican Grill) Pieology or others were opening locations left and right in metro Atlanta and making the market far more competitive, but as of now, only Pieology has entered the market, and with only one location in Alpharetta. Pieology does have additional locations planned for both Decatur and Sandy Springs but Blaze has twice delayed their Atlanta entry and there is no indication that Pizzeria Locale will enter the market anytime soon.
Pie Five Pizza Co., which entered the Georgia market last year with locations in McDonough and Newnan had previously announced four new locations in metro Atlanta of which two have already been removed from the website. The two removed locations were for sites in Chamblee and Roswell while the two remaining were to be located in Kennesaw and Duluth. The Kennesaw and Duluth locations were both within Fuqua Development projects and are likely not happening. Both sites are reportedly actively being "shopped" to others tenants with Pie Five reportedly "wanting out" of both leases. The pizza chain, which was developing metro Atlanta as a corporate territory, is reportedly interested in assigning the two existing leases to a franchisee but has thus far been unable to secure an agreement with anyone to do so, imagine that.
Although not in the same quantity, a number of Pie Five locations have also closed. A brief internet search reflects that locations in Laurel, MD, Mesa and Scottsdale, AZ, Sterling, VA, Houston, TX, Jordan, UT, Southfield, MI and recently in Orlando,FL, after only 18 months, have all closed.
Other make your own pizza joints have closed locations too, but again, in far fewer numbers.
While I make no claim that any closure count for any brand is comprehensive, I found Your Pie locations to have closed in both Ocala,FL and Athens,GA and a Blaze Pizza closure at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, MD. (the chain claims they are "moving.") Another chain, Pieology, appears to have closed locations in both Pasadena, CA and Draper, UT.
What is Uncle Maddio's doing wrong? Is the product bad? The locations? What if anything can be done to save this once promising brand?
Please share your thoughts below.