Extra! Extra! Read all about it! California pizza franchise wants entrepreneurial veterans to join a growing business!
That business is The Pizza Press, a pizza and craft beer restaurant franchise with an old-timey newspaper theme.
On average, each The Pizza Press restaurant has about 30 different beers on tap, President Dara Maleki said during a recent interview from the franchise’s headquarters in Anaheim.
While all the pizzas — which are named after famous regional newspapers around the United States — are prepared in under four minutes, the franchise isn’t a fast food place, Maleki noted. Rather, guests are invited to sit and enjoy their meal at a leisurely pace and have a beer after.
Opened in 2012, the company started franchising in 2014 and currently has 10 units open, 30 in development and 80 sold.
“Everyday we pretty much add a new one into the fold,” Maleki said.
Although the The Pizza Press owner contends the pizza market is fairly saturated, there is always room for a new player if they concentrate on the right things like having a great product and offering a stellar customer experience with outstanding service.
“It’s all based on user experience and that’s what we deliver,” he noted.
Bringing Quality to the Resort Experience
A long-time businessman in the Anaheim area, Maleki had just exited his last business — an exporting and procurement venture — in 2011 and was looking for a new opportunity.
He was approached by a local hotelier about trying his hand at opening a restaurant and the idea intrigued him enough that he contacted his friends in the culinary arts and started brainstorming ideas. Once they had their concept set, he engaged his crack marketing team to get the word out and when the restaurant opened, the masses came.
Having traveled extensively, Maleki specifically wanted to open something that would be good for a resort area.
The entrepreneur learned from his own experience while traveling that in and around resorts, the restaurants would usually offer poor quality food and service and and be woefully overpriced, even in Italy. With his restaurant, he wanted to do the exact opposite of that.
“The good food is never in the resort area,” Maleki opined. “It’s always in those small towns and I thought why can’t we bring that great quality of food and that great service into a resort area?”
With that goal in mind, The Pizza Press was born.
Its first year was a great success and people kept asking if the restaurant was a franchise and if it would be expanding.
Knowing he had a great business model to share, Maleki decided franchising was the best way to do that.
The Right Fit
To put it simply, Maleki wants franchisees who are passionate about what they do.
“Money is so elusive,” he stated. “You really have to strive for excellence, so we look for people who execute well, who are motivated individuals and who really want to serve their communities.”
This is where veterans come into play, as they are used to striving for excellence in everything they do.
While The Pizza Press currently only has one veteran-owned franchise in Santa Monica, the company president is keen to get more veterans on board. Some current The Pizza Press locations have veteran employees and managers and working with them has been overwhelmingly positive for The Pizza Press president.
Any veterans who join The Pizza Press will get the same training all new recruits undergo, which involves two weeks of in-class training in Anaheim followed by two weeks of on-site training when they open. The in-class training focuses a lot on how to hire ideal employees, how to maintain ideal service standards and getting new franchisees used to The Pizza Press culture.
The support doesn’t stop at training. The Pizza Press stays in near-constant contact with their franchisees for the first month they are open, checking in frequently to make sure they are staying on task to reach their goals.
Once they are established, The Pizza Press offers a lot of marketing support for both print ads and digital media.
Thus far, The Pizza Press has stuck to its home state of California, with locations from north Los Angeles all the way down to San Diego. However, The Pizza Press has locations in development in Florida, North Carolina, Washington and in Austin, TX.
Maleki even flew to China recently to cut the ribbon on a newly opened The Pizza Press in north Beijing.
Being an avid traveler, Maleki is excited to bring The Pizza Press to the world.
“Beside sport, I think business is the next international language,” he said.
Getting Veterans Involved
To help with The Pizza Press’ expansion, Maleki has signed the company up for the VetFran Program, which helps veterans open franchise businesses. Over 600 franchise companies participate in the VetFran program.
Maleki is especially keen to work with former members of the military because as a group, they have such a great reputation for entrepreneurialism. In fact, according to research from the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), veterans are actually 45 percent more likely to be entrepreneurs or at least self-employed than non-veterans.
However, this propensity toward business ownership does come with some significant hurdles, most notably a lack of startup capital.
As Maleki points out, many veterans may not be aware they have financing options available through various funding programs from Veteran Affairs and the SBA.
Veterans in and around California are especially well served, as San Diego has become a hot spot for veteran entrepreneurs with several training programs and business incubators popping up in the region.
“When you’re starting a brand-new business and you don’t have any type of business track record because you’ve been serving in the military, it’s very hard to get a loan or find investors,” Carlos E. Figari, director of the SoCal Veterans Business Outreach Center in Carlsbad, CA told the New York Times in a recent article. “If you are starting a company that’s directly connected to the experience obtained while you were in the military, then you have a network to tap. But if you want to open a Subway, that’s a totally different story.”
Figari said many veterans know they want to start a business, but don’t know exactly how to go about doing that or don’t have much knowledge about the industry they want to get into. That’s where group’s like Figari’s come in, offering training to former military members on how to open and run a business.
His is one of several nonprofit agencies that have been founded to specifically help veterans transition to business ownership.
Among the numerous government and non-profit programs available to veterans, are:
- the SBA’s Boots to Business program
- the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities
- the Veteran Entrepreneurship Program
- the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship program
- the Bunker and Patriot Boot Camps
- the Coalition for Veteran-Owned Businesses
Maleki said he wants to do his part to help veterans make the leap from military service to business ownership by offering comprehensive training and robust business opportunities to them through The Pizza Press.
After all, getting more veterans involved with business and franchise ownership is good news for everyone.