Sunday, November 11, 2018

[UPDATE] The Local Pizzaiolo Looking to Exit Atlanta, Restaurants For Sale

The two Atlanta locations of upstart pizza chain The Local Pizzaiolo are for sale.  The restaurants, located in West Midtown and Toco Hills, opened in January and May 2018, respectively, and were to be followed by additional locations in Sandy Springs late this year and at Madison Yards on Memorial Drive in Reynoldstown next year.  

In May, ToNeTo Atlanta reported that the Sandy Springs location had been cancelled.  This latest development would seem to suggest a similar fate in Reynoldstown, although it (and Sandy Springs) are still listed as "coming soon" on the restaurant's website. 

The Local Pizzaiolo, which was a "cashless" restaurant, was surprisingly half-baked from day one, and seems to have suffered the same pitfalls of well chronicled [on this site] failed concepts before it: Treza and Rize Pizza

At none of the aforementioned restaurants was the pizza bad, it was actually quite good, but all three concepts focused too much on growth and too little on the experience itself.  It's no doubt hard to open a restaurant and one must have dreams of a successful chain, but to try and jumpstart that growth without fine-tuning the concept is an especially risky move. 

Think what you will of the brand, but Moe's Southwest Grill is a perfect example of a concept built from day one to be a chain... but one that got its feet wet, perfected the concept over time, and then started to grow by selling franchises.  
Giulio Adriani poses in front of The Local Pizzaiolo in West Midtown
The Local Pizzaiolo had a good pedigree, after all, helmed by four time World Pizza Champion Giulio Adriani, the restaurant delivered an above average product for slightly more than one would pay at quick serve eatery Blaze, and slightly less than one would pay at full serve eatery Antico.  That space though, above fast casual and below full serve, is a tough market to thrive in.  

Aside from the failures of Treza and Rize, longtime ToNeTo Atlanta readers may recall another concept that suffered a similar fate: Urban Flats at Lindbergh City Center.  Urban Flats, like TLP, tried to be a "flex casual" concept, straddling the line between F2o and Seasons 52.  The restaurant, which opened in 2008, changed hands a couple of times before eventually closing for good in 2012.  

Another area in which TLP surely struggled was in the sale of goods from its in-store market.  The restaurant was hawking $20 olive oil and $50 cutting boards in a restaurant with mostly $12 pizzas.  The market likely ended up being wasted space and tying up capital. 
The market inside The Local Pizzaiolo in West Midtown
According to her LinkedIn, Allison Satter Hill, who served as President and CEO of The Local Pizzaiolo, left the chain in October.  Since July, she has been a Council Member, President's Council of Cornell Women at Cornell University.  Prior to TLP, Hill was Vice President of Marketing at Miller's Ale House, an Orlando-based chain owned by Atlanta-based Roark Capital Group where her husband Geoff is a Managing Director.

ToNeTo Atlanta visited the Toco Hills location of The Local Pizzaiolo a couple of times.  On one occasion, we noted that the music being played was not "clean" [curse words in at least one Drake song] and contacted Hill to make her aware of it.  Given Hill described her role as creating a "hospitable environment for guests and a purpose within the community," we were surprised that she never got back to us regarding the issue.  While this kind of incident likely did not cause the restaurant to under-perform, foul language in an environment meant for families, and unresponsive executives, undoubtedly contributed. 

The sales listing from Atlanta's The Shumacher Group indicates that "Out of State Owners are selling to focus on growing another region of the Country. Additional units are currently under development."  Online research suggests that the other region of the country is Washington D.C., where the group has at least one restaurant under construction.  

Fiorenzo Bresolin, who along with Adriani and Hill conceptualized the concept, was reportedly the main source of financing for the brand.  Born in Canada and now based in West Palm Beach, Florida, Bresolin is involved in commercial real estate but also previously franchised multiple failed Teriyaki Experience restaurants in the Sunshine State.  As recently as earlier this spring, executives from TLP were scouting Florida for locations but it's unclear if any leases were ever signed.  

Steve Josovitz of The Shumacher Group is offering both Atlanta area restaurants as "keep or convert," but "name, recipes, books, and records are not being provided." 

The 2,700 square foot West Midtown restaurant is priced at $325,000, a fraction of the $635,000 spent to open it.

The 2,380 square foot Toco Hills restaurant is also priced at $325,000,  also a fraction of the $550,000 spent opening it.   

Information on the restaurant's lease, equipment list and breakdown of monthly fixed costs are not identified in the listing but "will be provided."

Although TLP was reportedly not yet growing by franchising, their struggles also bring to mind the recent struggles of MidiCi - The Neapolitan Pizza Co., an Encino, California-based pizza restaurant.  Developed by Menchies frozen yogurt founder Amit Kleinberger, MidiCi was billed as the next great franchise opportunity.  Before even one corporate location was open, Kleinberger had signed over 300 franchises!  
One corporate store eventually opened but it became clear to all involved that opening and operating an upscale 4,000 square foot pizza eatery was vastly more expensive and more difficult than operation an 1,800 square foot yogurt joint.  Although Kleinberger sold more than 500 franchises, the group peaked at 36 earlier this year and multiple restaurants have closed, while many others have been called off, including one in Roswell.  One Atlanta area location did open, on Peachtree Street in Midtown, and another is planned for Halcyon in Alpharetta.  

Real estate sources indicate the Halcyon location may never open and that multiple lawsuits are pending after the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this past September.   

Are you surprised that The Local Pizzaiolo is looking to leave the market?  Did you have have the pizza at The Local Pizzaiolo?  What would you like to see open in the concept's Toco Hills or West Midtown locations?

Please share your thoughts below. 


Anonymous said...

Interesting about the music. I had my 4-yo there and noticed the employees working on their Spanish slang with the pizzaiolo himself. I know enough Spanish to follow along on their comments on the customers and various body parts. What a shame, I really enjoyed their pizza, especially the eggplant.

Anonymous said...

I have never been, but I just looked at the reviews and the pictures on Yelp and I need to eat there before they close. The reviews are fantastic and the pizza looks really good.

Greenwave said...

Not surprised at all. The pizza was okay and the owner was an asshole the times I did go.

RichKnobSales said...

I had lunch there once and was taken by surprise by the no cash option when I went to pay. At least that was prior to eating!

My pizza didn't show up until about 15 minutes after my lunch companion's did. and I had placed my order first. Repeated questions about my pizza did not shake it loose, and he went on and ate his before it was stone cold.

No compensation nor apology was offered for my inconvenience. Pizza, while tasty, was not worth the hassle.

Anonymous said...

Went in once. Compared to its competitors, the prices were too high and the experience too cold -- I knew right then they were on borrowed time. MOD Decatur gets my dollar, with their delicious $8 wood fired pizzas made any way. Way better value, and better environment.

oden said...

Their 'The Local' pizza, the one that's a collaboration with Heirloom Market, is fantastic. But outside of that, I'd now choose go to the new Blaze location over this place.

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