QA: Andy Hooper, president, chief operating officer &pizza
&pizza starts a new chapter, accelerates expansion
Fast casual &pizza is starting a new chapter in its growth. In July, it hired two new executives and promoted Andy Hooper to president and chief operating officer. The Washington, D.C.-based chain also opened a new store on Wall Street in Manhattan, marking its 36th location. In this Q&A, Restaurant C-Suite dives into further detail with Hooper, who will position the pizza chain for growth, overseeing business operations.
Restaurant C-Suite: This is an exciting time for &pizza and the company has expressed aggressive growth plans. What are three key ingredients that will help you double stores in the next couple of years?
Andy Hooper: First, our Tribe—aka our employees. People are at the center of our recipe for growth. Our primary focus is on developing new shop leaders from a group of existing employees and developing them for future leadership opportunities along the path. Next up is format innovations: Our cube kiosks and mobile locations are chances to learn about new markets and establish our profiles there.
Then there’s site selection. We have focused our real estate strategy on leveraging our people pipeline, operational infrastructure, and brand recognition here in the mid-Atlantic coast. Most of the immediate new shop development will be geographically concentrated near our existing shops in the greater D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York markets.
RCS: Can you shed more light on expansion plans (next couple of stores to open, which markets, what types of stores, etc.)?
AH: We can’t give out exact details on the next few shops to open just yet, but we’ll definitely be expanding our fleet in the DMV area. We’re gonna keep playing around with new shop formats. We can open a 300-square-foot kiosk and generate as much revenue at peak meal periods as we can in a 2,000-square-foot shop. We can roll out a mobile location that’s basically just a shop on wheels—which helps us save money in terms of real estate. You should see more cubes and more trucks on the road in the future.
RCS: Tell us how focusing on the East Coast will help &pizza expand the brand, when other chains that started in D.C. have decided to open stores on the West Coast concurrently.
AH: We believe that in the near-term, a focus on East Coast expansion will help us grow faster by leveraging our key strengths. Anchoring our expansion to our existing shop base will help us maintain our existing supply-chain discipline, promote future leaders from within, and create more economies of scale for our brand and the causes for which we continue to support. As we expand westward and internationally in the future, we know there will be a market for &pizza and we’ll be confident doing so based on a strong East Coast presence.
RCS: Also, how will Erik Bruner-Yang help reinvigorate the menu?
AH: As a fellow product of Northeast D.C., we’ve been neighbors with Erik since our original shop on H Street opened. We have a mutual respect for him and his business; we see eye-to-eye on many things like aesthetics, vibe, and food as an extension to other areas of culture like music and clothing. [Both of us] have pretty distinct styles, so we brought him on to revamp our menu. There will be new categories with new pies, courtesy of Erik, but we’re also introducing non-pizza items like a stromboli and garlic knots for the very first time.
RCS: Tell us about new prototype stores and how they relate to the cube kiosk model at Union Station.
AH: We’re always trying to figure out the right model for the right location. A cube was perfect for Union Station, which is in a food court in the bottom of a train station. Wall Street made perfect sense for people looking to order ahead or grab pies on the go, so we built it for the location and focused on speed—i.e., no seating.
Photo credit: Qdoba
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