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Family-owned pizza chain takes the compromise out of pizza

Posted: June 9, 2014 3:55 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2014 3:55 p.m.

PizzaRev crew member Marco Medina pulls a pizza from the oven. Dan Watson/The Signal

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PizzaRev of Santa Clarita is but one of 11 locations the fast-casual chain pizzeria has opened since its inception in 2012, but it plans to rapidly ramp up by adding 12 more locations throughout the U.S. in the coming year, according to one of its executives.

To distinguish itself in a market full of emerging new pizza restaurants, however, PizzaRev has carved out a niche for itself.

Using an assembly line method, pizza fans follow their Roman style dough – a very thin and crispy crust when cooked - down a line offering some 40 toppings including six different cheeses while PizzaRev employees customize every single pizza for guests.

The 11-inch pizzas each sell for only $7.99 – regardless of how many toppings are added to the pizza.

Finished pizzas are turned out in under 3 minutes, cooked in an open flame, stone-bed oven similar to the ones used in Italy, said Nicholas Eckerman, Chief Operating Officer and one of the four co-founders.

Although the chain is comprised of all regional restaurants at the moment, PizzaRev is now going national.

And even though it’s family-owned, the Westlake Village-based company plans to break through the competition, in part, with the help of a strategic partnership it has formed with Buffalo Wild Wings.

The Revolution
PizzaRev was founded by two father and son teams, Eckerman said. The fathers, Irv Zuckerman and Rodney Eckerman, were both former Clear Channel Entertainment executives. Sons Jeff Eckerman, who had a background in marketing in the fine dining industry, and Nicholas Eckerman, who specialized in fine food and beverage industry at places like the Ritz Carlton, joined forces with their dads to create the company.

The ‘Rev’ in the name PizzaRev stands for ‘speed’, Eckerman said. But, it also stands for what they believe is a way of revolutionizing the pizza industry.

What makes PizzaRev’s business model stand out in the pizza industry, Eckerman said, is that it eliminates the compromise most pizza diners have to make when sharing a pizza and having to agree to which toppings all diners will like.

The inexpensive, quickly cooked, all customized pizzas allow each guest to have the pizza of their desire, he said.

Unlike the convection oven method of cooking most pizzas in restaurants today, the open flame stone bed oven is heated up to 850 degrees so that the process from ordering a pizza, selecting toppings, and cooking it can all be done in less than eight minutes, Eckerman said.

Still, with a little help from Buffalo Wild Wings’ partnership – which brings an infusion of cash and operational expertise, PizzaRev is challenging the competition head-on with its unique approach.

The number of pizza establishments in the U.S. number between 38,000 to 70,000 depending on how a restaurant is defined, or who collects the statistics.

But no matter how you slice it, the pizza market segment is reportedly a $30-plus billion dollar industry in the U.S.

“Pizza is the most popular food category in the U.S.,” Eckerman said. “We’re thrilled to see a renaissance in the pizza category.”

But the competition doesn’t scare the founders away.

“Pizza competition is capitalism,” he said. “Competition makes you better. It makes you pay attention to what others are doing and to what customers are paying for. Pleasing those customers is what separates you from the others.”

Using all fresh ingredients and high speed cooking, Eckerman said they can keep costs down by selling a higher volume while still offering a quality product.

“We call it ‘pizza without compromise,’” he said.

As a result, PizzaRev has found that their restaurants are generating half their business during lunch time in an industry where restaurants typically do the bulk of their business at dinner, he said.

As for the Santa Clarita location, Eckerman said they intentionally chose the area because it’s a family-driven area like the other communities they’ve chosen to open in.

As for now, while the restaurants are all corporate owned, Eckerman says PizzaRev has recently announced a franchise program which just might add speed not only to the pizza cooking process, but to national expansion as well.

PizzaRev is located in the River Oaks Shopping Center located at 24341 Magic Mountain Parkway, on the corner of McBean Blvd. and Magic Mountain.



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