Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Persistent Parking Problems Plagued Pieology in Alpharetta

Pizza joint falls flat in Alpharetta  
Pieology Pizzeria, the Santa Margarita, California based quick serve pizza chain which entered the metro Atlanta market last fall with a location in Alpharetta, has closed.  The restaurant, located in a 2,800 square foot space in The Atwater on Old Milton Parkway, opened in late October and closed Sunday night.  The Atwater is a small strip center across from Avalon, which also features Firebirds Wood Fire Grill, Southern Baked Pie Co., Bezoria, and Starbucks, among other tenants.  

I visited the center last night and spoke with Joshua McBride, Vice President, Development at Segovia Aslan Enterprises, the firm that has the franchise rights to Georgia and other states in the southeast.  McBride, a ten year Chick-fil-A veteran, lamented that the closure was not something they wanted to do and that the company is "committed to Alpharetta."  Although the restaurant was well received, it became apparent that parking, access and street signage were hurdles too significant to overcome.   

Pieology's corporate office provided me the following statement earlier this afternoon in response to the closure:   

"Pieology restaurant at 2685 Old Milton Parkway in Alpharetta, Georgia has closed effective January 30, 2017.  This in no way reflects our commitment to this market but rather an opportunity to better reassess a more robust location to be able to take advantage of the dining behavior of the clientele in this area.  This is only the first such store in our Pieology chain to reevaluate its location and we look forward to conducting our due diligence in a timely manner."   

Firebirds, the center's largest tenant at nearly 6,600 square feet, draws the largest crowds and offers valet parking onsite.  With an already limited number of spaces, the amount taken by Firebirds on one side of Pieology and Starbucks on the other, made it very difficult for customers to find parking.  While Starbucks does have a drive-thru, as is the case at many coffee shops, onsite patrons tend to stick around for hours on end, using the shop as their impromptu work station.    

In addition to the limited parking, the street-side pylon signage only had room to feature four tenants, of which Pieology was not one.  Even if you did see the restaurant, its location across from Avalon with no signaled intersection made it a challenge to access unless you were on the right side of the road.  Although some may think parking is exclusively an "ITP" problem, this center proves otherwise.    

I could find only one other Pieology to have closed, which was in Draper, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City.    (By comparison, Atlanta based Uncle Maddio's has shuttered over fifteen locations in recent years.) 

Launched in 2011, Pieology is widely regarded as "best in class" when it comes to quick serve pizza operators.    

Last year, Technomic, a restaurant industry research firm, released its Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report which tracks year-over-year sales growth.  Three of the five best performers were quick serve pizza operators, led by Blaze Pizza with 205% YOY sales growth.  MOD Pizza was second (up 131%) and Pieology Pizzeria was fourth (up 67%).  

I announced last year that Pieology had plans to open in both Decatur Crossing in Decatur as well as The Plaza at City Springs in Sandy Springs,but both of those locations are off the table as Segovia Aslan hits the pause button on their Atlanta expansion. (McBride did say that Pieology would love to be back in Alpharetta should a better location be found.) Segovia continues to operate a total of eleven Pieology locations in the southeast,with a twelfth coming soon to Charlotte.     

Other pizza players are planning Atlanta openings, while others reconsider expansion.  

Blaze Pizza recently confirmed its plans to enter the Atlanta market with a restaurant at North Decatur and Clairmont Roads in Emory Commons.      

MOD Pizza is reportedly close to signing two leases in metro Atlanta but has nothing open or confirmed yet.  

Pie Five Pizza Co., which entered the Georgia market in 2015 with locations in McDonough and Newnan, had previously announced four new locations in metro Atlanta, all of which have since been removed from their website.  The four  "would-be" locations were for sites in Chamblee, Roswell, Kennesaw and Duluth.  The Kennesaw and Duluth locations were both within Fuqua Development projects and are actively being "shopped" to other tenants.    

This past fall, I broke news that Ohio based PizzaFire plans to enter the Atlanta market with a location in Brookhaven, followed by a location in Roswell.     

Are you surprised Pieology felt forced to close in Alpharetta?  Do you think parking is becoming as big of a problem OTP as it is ITP? If Pieology were to reopen elsewhere in Alpharetta, where do think they could do well?   

Please share your thoughts below.


Anonymous said...

This had nothing to do with parking or signage, there food was just not that good, wanted to like it and tried a few times, blah

Anonymous said...

I liked it, sorry to see it go...

Anonymous said...

You clearly could not see the obstacles the business faced. Parking and signage are very significant. Food aside.

Douglas Green said...

It was a good place. Never had a problem parking.

Anonymous said...

Booo hoooo...Another failed concept blaming parking. Do your homework ahead of time, market appropriately, and people will come. The outstanding thai place on Cheshire Bridge has survived for years with 3 parking spaces.

Stacy said...

It's different OTP. I lived in town for many years before making the move to Alpharetta. There are things I miss but sucky parking is NOT one of them. Bad parking can definitely kill a suburban business because suburbanites don't expect parking issues. That is a new strip mall will plenty of land around it's ridiculous that the parking is inadequate.

Anonymous said...

Went there many times. Food and service was great. They contributed often to community events. Parking was a joke. Visibility was a joke.

Anonymous said...

I visited Firebird for their grand opening and noted that access and parking in that center was woefully inadequate. And at the time, not much else was open.

Anonymous said...

We loved this place and are so sad to see it go! Guess we will have to visit the Birmingham location!

jeff a. taylor said...

Many of these new suburban "mothership" mixed-use installations do not have enough parking because they lack convention biz hotels. This is why most center cities have SOME parking options as the cost of turning away potential customers is very real - and high. Sometimes a multiplex movie theater can supply this kind of incentive, but conversely condo/apartment components incents parking scarcity. Meanwhile, I think a lot of these smaller lease-holders overestimate the amount of biz other mothership tenants will provide. You are not going to sell even $15 lunches consistently to your retail and office support neighbors, who might splurge on a FAST $6-7 salad/soup couple times a week when they aren't brown-bagging it from home. Couple parking issues to watch -- Sandy Springs' drive to increase density along Hammond and the coming horror that will be Bravesworld.

Victor Moldovan said...

Too many quick-cook pie concepts out there. Uncle Maddios, Rise Pies, etc. What's missing is slice shops--a fixture throughout the northeast. Quick and less expensive than tedious so-called artisan pizza places.

pizza lover said...

Loved the food, went many times and NEVER had a problem parking. Weird.