Pizza Studio: Serving Tasty Franchise Opportunities

Creating made-to-order pizzas, Pizza Studio is serving up tasty franchise opportunities. Inviting guests to create their own custom pizzas from the highest quality ingredients at an affordable price, the fast-causal concept is
now turning heads.

Founded by CEOs Samit Varma and Ron Biskin, Pizza Studio was built from heart, passion, and a whole lotta expertise. Pizza Studio recently changed its name from The Pizza Studio.

Treating every guest with genuine hospitality, the experience begins with choosing from an array of artisanal crusts including the traditional thin crispy crust, whole grain & flax seed,  osemary herb, spicy firecracker, and gluten free. Next adding specialty sauces and freshly grated mozzarella, shaved parmesan, crumbled feta or goat cheese; toppings include premium meats and freshly roasted the veggies. Making way down the assembly line, pizza artists use all natural, cruelty and hormone free ingredients.

“It’s important to be able to customize pizzas because the chances of two people wanting the exact same toppings are very slim,” says Varma.

A fan favorite, “Create Your Masterpiece” allows guests to treat themselves to an 11-inch pizza featuring unlimited toppings for just $7.99, while the “Starving Artists” selections are only $5.99. All pizzas are baked within minutes in a high-heat, conveyor belt convection oven to ensure top quality and consistency.

Born and raised in New York, Varma spent much of his childhood eating and making pizzas in the family kitchen. “My Mom would always make a big ball of dough to cut into smaller  ones for the kids. My brother, sister and I would always get to pick our own toppings to build something we loved,” he recalls. Attending the Naval Academy in Maryland, Varma earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and completed a post-graduate study in nuclear engineering. Spending the next eight years assigned to Trident Submarine the USS Nebraska, here Varma served as the Systems Weapons Officer. After leaving the military he attended the University of Southern California (USC) where he earned an MBA. Working  next at a software startup company, he later partnered with one of West Coast’s most successful venture capital firms.

In search of a new project Varma evaluated thousands of business plans, before deciding to go back to his roots. “I saw the success of other build-your-own concepts and thought there should be one for pizza,” he explains.

After plenty of research and brand development, Varma then met up with Ron Biskin, a veteran of the restaurant industry. With over 30 years experience with big brands including Burger King, TGI, Baja Fresh, and  Wolfgang Puck, Biskin partnered with Varma to further explore the concept and set quality and operations standards. Destined to franchise, Pizza Studio’s model was built for speed, simplicity, consistency, and scalability.

“We spent an entire year getting every aspect of operations completely right. We have a high-output system that results in a consistent product every time,” explains Varma. “Everything about the process has been tested and tried with thousands of data points… the crispness of the pizza, the fold-ability, the heat, even the size of the bubbling.”

Positioned to be at the forefront of the fast-causal pizza category, Pizza Studio’s unit economics are a major attraction for potential partners. “The simplicity of operation and  onsistent quality of the product drives franchisees who have done their due diligence to choose us,” says Varma. “We are growing but we will serve the same product, the same way, everywhere. I think that’s the hallmark of a good franchise system.”

Opening the first location outside of the USC campus in January 2013, the response has been amazing. With six locations currently open, Pizza Studio has over 175 restaurants  with major franchisees in development. Spanning the country, these franchisees come from existing brands such as Freebirds World Burrito and Red Robin. A recent agreement  with Studio 37, LLC of San Jose, CA promises to develop 25 new restaurants throughout the greater San Francisco metro area. Jeff Burrill, managing member of Studio 37, also  serves as the managing member of Pangenera, LLC, a multi-unit developer of Panera Bread in the San Francisco Bay area. Pizza Studio’s franchise roster also includes Zane  Tankel, a large Applebee’s franchisee among others, and Lloyd Sugarman, co-founder and largest franchisee of Johnny Rockets. Sugarman has committed to opening 12 Pizza Studio restaurants in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. “We’re growing quickly and are pleased with the response,” says Varma.

Currently looking to expand into the east coast, Midwest, and south coast, Pizza Studio offers unique franchise opportunities. Looking for individuals that are experienced  restaurant and multiunit operators with established brands, Pizza Studio is seeking those who have the resources for multi-unit ownership. The estimated initial investment for a  Pizza Studio location ranges from $250,000 to $500,000, including a $15,000 development fee per store and $25,000 franchise fee. Royalties are 5.5 percent of gross sales with  an additional contribution of up to two percent of gross sales to a national brand fund. However, Pizza Studio also offers select, qualified franchisees joint-venture partnerships. “We have a large pool of capital to draw from and develop stores and we are so convinced in the model that we would happily participate in individual store economics,” says Varma. “It shows confidence in the model and confidence in the operators we are  choosing. We are going with quality, not quantity in our operators and we put our money where our mouth is.”

Pizza Studio’s franchising process begins with an interview followed by a Discovery Day at the California headquarters. Here candidates will have the opportunity to explore the concept and meet members of the corporate  team. If both parties then agree the business is a good fit, they will evaluate available territories and determine how many units the franchisee would like to take on. Once the franchise agreement is signed the franchisee undergoes four weeks of comprehensive training.

Covering all aspect of management and operations, franchisees are able to enlist four people for training. The first two weeks of training are hands on in a Los Angeles restaurant, while the remaining two are in the  franchisee’s restaurant. Benefiting from on-site training, a team will arrive one week prior to the store opening and stay for the week following. Providing ongoing training through refresher courses and procedure  upgrades, franchisees can count on frequent visits from corporate staff, full marketing and branding support. Franchisees are also assigned a dedicated franchise operations manager to be their core contact for anything  they may need.

In addition to its rapid expansion and tremendous customer recognition, a recent Concepts 2020 research by Technomic shows that the made-to-order Pizza niche is expected to be the next hot concept in fast-causal food; the fastest growing segment in the restaurant industry.

“Franchisees are joining extremely high caliber operators within the system who are enjoying the best in class product and unit economics,” says Varma. “We’ve been able to sign up a solid group of franchisees, and we  want to keep up with that quality. In the end, that’s what will make the chain successful.”

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