Bringing together culturally inspired ingredients in one of the most beloved foods in the world was the inspiration behind Pieology, a California-based fast-casual personalized pizza concept that has set its sights on the Canadian market. “There are a number of brands that have had tremendous success in Canada but I’m not sure that within the fast-casual pizza segment there is something that compares to what we do,” says Carl Chang, CEO and founder of Pieology.
The difference, he says, is in the toppings, signature sauces and fresh dough made in-house daily. The company claims to offer nearly limitless flavour combinations for the discerning pie lover. “We’ve reinvented the traditional way of creating and serving pizza — fresh, delicious and without boundaries. It’s a craft that we’re proud to say we’ve perfected,” says Chang.
The Pieology experience starts with fresh house-made dough pressed into 11.5-inch thin pizza crusts. Guests select from eight signature sauces and more than 30 meats, cheeses, vegetables, herbs and spices. The customized pizzas are then stone-oven fired in less than three minutes. To finish, guests have the option to add after-bake “Flavour Blast” sauces, including fiery buffalo, pesto and BBQ. Most custom pizzas with unlimited toppings are priced at US$8 or less.
Chang opened the first Pieology unit in 2011 in Fullerton, Calif. and has since grown the artisanal pizza chain to 90 units in 12 states. The brand earned the number-1 spot in terms of sales and unit growth on Technomic’s annual “Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report” by increasing its annual sales 230 per cent from a year earlier, to $44.6 million in 2014, when its unit count nearly tripled to 42 locations.
The U.S. stores are a mix of company-owned and franchised units, with the cost to buy a 2,500-sq.-ft., 70-seat franchise ranging from US$300,000 to $400,000.
Hitting the Road
In 2015, Chang created a business development team to focus solely on Canadian expansion; dedicating significant resources to market research. “It’s been fascinating and wonderful to see the excitement and support in Canada,” he says. Developing a Canadian experience is the company’s goal, he emphasizes. “Our vision is not for Pieology to be synonymous to the U.S. but to allow it to be unique to the community it’s in.” Ingredient offerings will be unique to the country and may even change from province to province, but Chang says the concept will remain the same: helping pizza lovers create their own mastery. Pieology will also look for local connections and vendors to support and build local businesses in Canada.
Chang plans to open the first Pieology location, or perhaps multiple locations, in Canada by the third quarter of 2016. “Strategically, what we’re going to do in the first quarter of  is have discussions, partner with the right groups and perhaps focus on multiple areas — clusters of stores in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal simultaneously.”
As a company, Pieology is dedicated to supporting the communities in which it operates. “We really want to be connected to local causes that are unique to a particular community,” says Chang. “Whether it’s the local Boys and Girls Club or local children’s hospital, I always find that within certain trade areas there is something unique.”
“What I want for the brand is a legacy, to be known for giving back, finding connections at the local level, being impactful in the communities we serve and helping people celebrate food.”
Volume 48, Number 11