Could Pie Five’s ‘Goldilocks’ be its golden opportunity?

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Anyone who ever drifted off to a reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, knows that oft-repeated line in the story that espouses the virtues of the chair that was “not too big,” “not too small,” but “just right.”

That, in essence, is the theory behind the Pie Five chain’s relatively new downsized franchise model, appropriately named after Ms. “Just Right” herself, Goldilocks. And unlike the potential effect of that “bedtime story,” Pie Five leadership hopes Goldilocks  will “wake up” the brand sliding sales, like the P.I.E. (Pizza Inn Express) model has helped do for its Rave Restaurant Group sister brand, Pizza Inn.

Pie Five Vice President of Franchise Development Brett Heinen said at the same time Pizza Inn was busy developing their downsized kiosk-style model, Pie Five, was also trying to come up with a downsized model that would address the demand for increasingly smaller restaurant footprints, while also paying heed to the growing popularity of food trucks in the U.S.

Though sales have lagged at Pie Five in recent years, one particular type of brand location has thrived — the concept’s smaller-sized airport-based locations.

“Pie Five has had great success in airport locations and we were able to incorporate elements of our non-traditional design, like grab-and-go items,” Heinen said in an interview with Pizza Marketplace.

But this prototype differs from Pizza Inn’s PIE. model. That prototype is a kiosk-based concept designed to work well in those increasingly important non-traditional QSR locations, like convenience stores, malls, travel centers and even big box retailers.

The ‘apple’ of Goldilock’s eye? The under $400K franchisee

However, Heinen admitted that synergies definitely exist across the two brands’ model, just like the commonalities that exist in the way Rave looks at and develops operations for the entire service model. That said, the target franchisee with the Goldilocks prototype was a very definite, but different kind of franchisee.

“The primary target was to get the initial investment under the $400,000 mark, while setting the owners up with a business model that could survive the lean times of sales and realize big efficiencies with a sales volumes based on our current averages,” Heinen said.  “Since we are building a brand for the long haul, it was important for us to put an emphasis on staying power while minimizing the risk associated with new store development.”

So the brand created the model, which has under 1,500 square feet and a very friendly revenue-to-investment ratio of two-to-one. Heinen said. The layout includes a food line designed for maximum customer flow in less space. It also places a big emphasis on operational nimbleness, with its optimized kitchen, efficiencies and other allocations designed to give locations a head start in adapting to emerging technologies as they come on line.

That streamlined theme is carried through to the Pie Five Goldilocks menu, which is reduced to a spare number of crust and topping options that simplify customer engagement, improve service speed and enhance customer value. Meantime, Pizza Inn’s PIE model goes after C-store business.

“Our inspiration in developing this model … is based on … shifting consumer trends toward hot foods in convenience stores,” Heinen said. “It sure doesn’t hurt the fact that the industry is a $575 billion monster that is aggressively trying to diversify from its core usage of gas/tobacco and alcohol.

“Hot foods are relatively new in this environment and, as a result, there is less competition than we currently see in the restaurant segment,” Heinen said. “We feel we can really make some noise and quickly gain a foothold due to our vast knowledge of pizza. There is a real opportunity for quality products in this space, and our Pizza Inn pizza will be one of best products out there.”

The off-premise opportunity

But PIE is a licensing agreement, without royalty fees. It requires just 52-square feet of space, as well as less than $25,000 in start-up costs. Essentially, Heinen said, it’s a “plug-and-play” store. Pie Five’s Goldilocks model, on the other hand, focuses squarely on off-premise carryout, online and third-party delivery sales by offering what Heinen said is a “full-size restaurant experience” in a small space. That overriding theme was emphasized to take advantage of the off-premise opportunity.

For instance, research by Technomic found that 86 percent of consumers eat off-premise monthly. And perhaps more important for the continued success of the Goldilocks model,  the company found  that a significant number of consumers reporting dining off-premise significantly more than they did just a year earlier.

And, as they say, there’s proving to be quite a market for that among smaller entrepreneurs, as well, who Heinen hopes will be especially enamored by Goldilocks.

“The Goldilocks model is the perfect option for entrepreneurs who are eager to open their own restaurant with smaller overhead and strong unit economics,” he said of the franchisee target. “The food industry is vastly different than what it was even five years ago.

“Franchise partners have so many choices and are highly knowledgable about what they are looking for in a concept partner. Our ideal franchise partner is someone who will be engaged in the store and will be engaged with their guest. We can give you a great food product to serve, but the quality of service will be what stands out.”

In fact, as Heinen put it, most customers will probably not notice much change in the Goldilocks stores, if the operator ensures “it’s done right.”  But Rave certainly hopes Pie Five’s franchise sales will note the change.

“What will be noticeable is if our franchise base starts to see more dollars going into their pocket(s), you should see a lift in multi-unit development from our franchise partner base. That’s when we know that the Goldilocks program is a winner!”

Feature photo: iStock

To hear more from Pie Five, Bob Bafundo, President of RAVE Restaurant Group (parent company of Pie Five) will be a panelist of the session, “Remodeling Done Right: Create a Stellar New Look with Staying Power”, at the Restaurant Franchising and Innovation Summit, March 11-13, in Louisville.

Register here for the Summit.


Republished with permission from Pizza Marketplace.

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