Author Topic: RedBrick Pizza  (Read 3554 times)

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Offline November

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RedBrick Pizza
« on: August 27, 2009, 01:22:47 AM »
RedBrick Pizza just recently moved into the area where I live, and their television commercial stylistically had me initially thinking it was for a new Pizza Hut venture.  The point being they certainly have their marketing figured out, and I immediately wanted to try their pizza.  Sometime soon I actually will.  After I do, I will return to this thread to give my impression.  Their concept of combining aspects of California style (e.g. toppings) with Neapolitan style (e.g. 1000-1200 °F) pizzas is very compelling to me.  In the meantime, if anyone else has tried their pizza or has any comments about them, here's the thread for it.

http://www.redbrickpizza.com/

The following post will contain a reprint of a 2006 article discussing their concept and franchise growth potential.  Two items of interest for me were the fact Jim Minidis, the founder, believes his business will become the Starbucks of pizza, and that he used to own a Little Caesar's franchise for 12 years where he got to see the good and bad of pizza chains.  Considering how far he's gotten in just a few years, I think he may be right about what he believes concerning his success.


Offline November

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2009, 01:23:37 AM »
http://www.thefranchisemall.com/news/articles/16672-0.htm

Emerging Concept: Redbrick Pizza

(Tuesday, June 20, 2006) - It took Pizza Hut 40 years to reach the 12,000 restaurant mark, but Jim Minidis believes his company, RedBrick Pizza, can do it in 10.

At nearly 60 units, Minidis' fast-casual pizza chain is a steady grower, one well regarded by industry observers and restaurant-savvy franchisees alike. The concept is both simple and unique: Gas-fired stone-hearth ovens cook gourmet pizzas and sandwiches in three minutes while staffers tickle waiting customers' taste buds with gelato samples. Stores, called "neighborhood pizza cafes," blend exhibition cooking, contemporary décor, seating and amenities, such as flat-screen TVs at every booth. The whole package is designed to attract pizza customers looking for something beyond the run-of-the-mill experience, patrons willing to pay $7 to $9 per visit.

Great idea. But can an already tight restaurant market sustain 12,000 RedBricks? Technomic researcher Darren Tristano is respectfully doubtful.

"My impression of the company is very, very positive. But to think they'll have 12,000 stores that soon, well, maybe that's aiming a little bit high," said Tristano, executive vice president of research for the Chicago-based firm.

Minidis doesn't pay much attention to such pessimism. He believes his chain can become the Starbucks Coffee of the pizza business for one simple reason: there's nothing like it in fast-casual dining.

"The dining public today is much more sophisticated than they were years ago," said Minidis, whose six-year-old company is headquartered in Palmdale, Calif. "They don't want ordinary coffee now that they know what Starbucks is like. They don't want ordinary chicken when they can have fire-roasted chicken. We're doing the same with pizza."

New to fast casual

As a 12-year Little Caesars franchisee, Minidis saw firsthand the oversupply of bargain-priced pizza. As he pondered developing a new concept, he realized the market for a fast-casual pizza experience was virtually untapped. Plus, the common juxtaposition of gelato to pizza in Italy assured him it would work in the United States as well.

"They've been doing this same thing for centuries in Italy, and I knew it could work here," Minidis said, adding that gelato itself carries an attractive Italian cachet. "We knew there were no other chains that focused strictly on fire-roasted pizza, gelato, sandwiches and fresh salads."

Ideally, six minutes elapse from the time RedBrick customers order their food until it's brought to the table. During the
wait, customers can sample any of 12 to 15 gelato offerings made in the store daily, view their food being made or watch TV at their booth. The casual and visually entertaining atmosphere was part of what captured franchisee Dan Rama's interest.

"My kids are challenging, young and very active," said Rama president of RBP Investment Group, which operates six RedBricks in Arizona. "The first time we went to one, the TV was there, a cartoon was on and that entertained them. My wife and I enjoyed our dinner without the kids fidgeting. Plus it was fast, good-quality food."

That RedBrick was unique in fast-casual dining attracted Dan Dumont and Paul Chong to the concept. The two are partners in RBP of Florida, a master development company for RedBrick in the Sunshine state, and they've committed to open 300 units.

"A big reason we signed on the dotted line was that RedBrick had a sustainable competitive advantage," said Chong. "We felt it wasn't going to be easily replicated by any pizza competitors or fast-casual competitors. We knew Papa John's and Domino's weren't suddenly going to declare they're doing gourmet pizzas."

Asked whether the skills of a serious pizza maker are required to master the company's super-hot ovens (company literature claims the ovens cook at 1,000 F, but Rama said he operates his at a still-scorching 700 F), Minidis said no. He declined to elaborate on the rapid baking process, saying only the pizzas cook as quickly and evenly as they do because of a proprietary dough recipe and cooking process. Thorough training makes the ovens as simple to operate as conveyors, he said. Rama agreed.

"It's all visual; you just rotate the pizzas in the oven in cycles and take them out when they're done," he said. "This is what I love about the concept. It's easy even for me, and especially with employees. Sometimes their biggest challenge is memorizing what goes on the gourmet pizzas."

Franchisees said they see great potential in the chain's gelato component. Few customers actually know what gelato is, "but once they taste it, they're hooked," Dumont said. Gelato ($2.50 per serving) makes up only 10 percent of total sales at his two Orlando stores, but when viewed as portions sold, gelato sales become more meaningful. "In a three-and-a-half-month period, we sold 15,700 total pizzas and 4,000 gelatos. When you think that 30 percent of our pizzas were sold with gelato, it's a bigger indicator of its importance than overall dollar sales."

Cost of bricks and mortar

It costs about $275,000 to open a RedBrick store, some 50 percent more than a common inline delivery-carryout unit, but considerably less than many comparable dine-in pizzerias. Units average 1,600 square feet and seat about 40. Currently the company has development agreements for more than 1,500 stores.

According to RedBrick's Web site, the franchise fee is $25,000 and potential candidates need a minimum net worth of $300,000 ($80,000 of that in liquid assets). The company takes a 6 percent royalty on sales, plus a 2 percent contribution to advertising.

Minidis declined to discuss per-store sales averages, but according to Gilbert, Ariz., franchisee Mo Zahoui, who was quoted in Nation's Restaurant News, annual sales in his first year could total $850,000 — about $300,000 more than the average U.S. pizzeria.

Such numbers present a potentially good return on investment, and that, Minidis said, should draw plenty of franchisees and further his incredible growth goals.

"Growing the company is a matter of minding your business and making sure your system can be duplicated in any state and
any country," he said. "We've proven we can double our system, and we expect to keep doing that."

Even if RedBrick is the perfect concept, Tristano said expects it will face many of the same hurdles Pizza Hut did on its climb to the top of the pizza heap. He said RedBrick has to battle many more pizza players than Pizza Hut did when it was small, plus it's competing for the same share of wallet sought by fast-casual stars like Chipotle Mexican Grill and Panera Bread. And then there are franchisee issues.

"Obviously, when you deal with franchises, you could run into struggles," Tristano said. "And site selection, picking the right market that's most appealing to the consumer, not one that's oversaturated with pizza players.

"But overall, I really like the concept, and if they can avoid a major threat from major chains, it should see some nice growth opportunities."

Offline Grog

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2009, 10:16:45 AM »
I tried Redbrick Pizza about a year and a half ago just outside of Denver.  This place is all about franchising and increasing numbers of "units", etc., rather than well made pizza.  Like most artisan pizza fakers, Redbrick dresses up its product with trappings and gimmicks, i.e. faux woodburning ovens (powered by easy-to-use gas) and LCD televisions, which may or may not be functioning at any particular time.  Employees are unskilled and fungible.  The pizza is crap. 

One thing to keep in mind is that Redbrick Pizza's customers are not diners looking for artisan pizza or even a fast casual dining experience.  They are gullible franchisees willing to pay 8% of gross sales to jump on a slickly marketed trend.

Speaking of which, the numbers in the article are ridiculous.  If $9 per visitor is correct, the $850k per year figure translates into 258 customers per day.  The place I visited had perhaps 30-40 seats and was 80% empty during the lunch rush. 

Places like Redbrick frustrate me beyond belief.  There are a lot of people out there who are passionate about food and have something special to offer, yet franchisable concepts (in which food is an afterthought) attract all the financing. 

Offline November

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2009, 11:35:26 AM »
Grog,

Some people like Little Caesar's pizza, some people don't.  Some people like Papa John's pizza, some people don't.  I think that sometimes ideologies get in the way of objective reviews, especially with people who are passionate about pizza.  Many times pizza connoisseurs use Patsy's or Grimaldi's or [insert favorite elite pizzeria] as a reference to judge chain pizzerias by, for what reason I don't know.  I judge chains against other chains.  I also think the quality of a pizza coming out of a franchise restaurant is more a result of the franchisee decisions and competencies than those of the franchiser.  One piece of evidence for this can be found in that article: "company literature claims the ovens cook at 1,000 F, but Rama said he operates his at a still-scorching 700 F"  The marketing may be strictly corporate, but the experiences can vary wildly from location to location like any other chain depending on what guidance the owner has decided to follow from corporate manuals, who gets hired, how much training everyone gets, and about a dozen other factors.

With that said, I do appreciate your input and I hope I don't encounter the same poor quality experience you did.  I have a friend who has already been to the location near me and has given a positive appraisal.  We will be going there within the next two weeks, so I'll remark on my (local) experience then.

- red.november

Offline November

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2009, 01:27:53 PM »
As a side note, that location (Aurora, CO) just hired a new general manager within the last two weeks.  The reviews have been mixed, but perhaps partially supportive of your assessment.

http://www.reviewblue.com/UnitedStates/Colorado/MetroDenver/AuroraCO/RestaurantReviews/29-20631-2.html

Offline Grog

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2009, 09:00:32 PM »
Don't get me wrong, I'm not slagging Red Brick Pizza, The New Italian (tm) because it doesn't satisfy my own proclivities.  Their pizza isn't good by any standard!  Different people have different preferences, of course, but there are also objective standards for pizza, even before getting to the more esoteric issues of wood vs. gas, yeast vs. starter, 00 vs. high gluten flour, cow vs. water buffalo, etc.   

The problem with Red Brick Pizza is that the priority is not on the pizza.  It's on the concept.  But don't take my word for it.  Google "red brick pizza".  The first words you'll see are "Pizza franchise for sale, pizza business start up info. for Opening your pizza shop business opportunities online."  Check out their website and see how prominent "Franchising" is compared to their menu.  Also see how they garble the terminology.  "Fire-roasted" pizza?  A gas fired oven that "sears" your pizza?  Who believes that they really run their ovens at "over 1,000 degrees"?  Where's the char? 

FYI, I appreciate not only real artisan pizza (and I've visited some of the best), but also junk food pizza.  The origin of my current Neapolitan pizza fetish has its roots in Pizza Hut, Papa Johns, and Domino's.  Since moving to Hong Kong I've renewed my appreciation for a well-made junk food pizza, such as Pizza Hut's hand-tossed crust, which is probably the best you'll find in this part of the world.  I even like Costco's pepperoni slice  (in context of course).  However, I think that the quality of a Red Brick pizza is not in the same league as these places.  They just don't taste good.

Well enough ranting.  I'd be interested to see if others on this site feel similarly after trying out The New Italian (tm) fire-roasted, seared pizza.

« Last Edit: September 01, 2009, 07:32:53 AM by Grog »

Offline November

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2009, 01:11:58 AM »
Tonight a friend and I visited a RedBrick Pizza located at a beach resort type of area along the panhandle coast of Florida.  It's a very touristy region so I expected teenage slacker proficiency at the counter, but the staff was certainly competent enough.  There didn't seem to be any issues with training.  It was a very packed restaurant though.  There was a five minute line to the register and about a twenty minute wait for the two pizzas we ordered.  My first impressions of the overall operations was that it was essentially setup like the McDonald's of pizza.  Of course unlike McDonald's the staff do bring the food to the table.  I can't really objectively say anything negative about the venue, since it's merely a style which caters to the "fast-food" customer.  While I'm not that kind of customer, I'm also not a big fan of beach tourist areas anyway, so they couldn't win my subjective vote for their choice of venue on the best of days.

As for the pizza itself, it was pretty good.  It wasn't incredible, but it was good enough to consider eating again.  For the crust I would rank it somewhere between a CPK frozen pizza and Domino's.  In fact, the crust was predominately a California style crust.  The rim was crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside for both pizzas, with one pizza having a very crispy bottom, almost charred.  The toppings were decisively Californian.  The "Malibu" for instance tasted a lot like CPK's barbecue chicken pizza.  I noticed the mushrooms they used were of a more flavorful variety than the typical button mushrooms one generally finds on commercial pizzas.  I would rank the quality of the toppings among the best that can be ordered from a chain pizzeria.  For the pepperoni, mushrooms, and italian sausage pizza, the toppings could have come from Papa John's for all it mattered.  For the Malibu pizza, the toppings were as good as, if not better than, those found on a Papa John's barbecue chicken pizza.

If I were visiting the area again, I would probably stop by a few other restaurants first before hitting Red Brick Pizza again.  That's mainly because there were a lot of other interesting restaurants in the area, like a very nice looking sushi bar.  With enough visits I would consider going back.  They do have a wide variety of pizza options, and most of them look quite appetizing.  It wasn't overpriced in the usual sense, but it was no bargain either.  I give them a C+.

- red.november

Offline Art

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Re: RedBrick Pizza
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2009, 08:49:02 AM »
Nice report, November. Also, excellent photos. It sure looks tasty!  Art
When baking, follow directions.  When cooking, go by your own taste.