As the new CEO of Rave Restaurant Group Inc., Scott Crane says building sales and average unit volumes at the company’s Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza Co. brands are his top priorities.
Crane took the helm at The Colony, Texas-based operator this week after serving as CEO of Denver-based Smashburger, which he left last April.
Rave’s legacy Pizza Inn brand was founded in 1958, in Dallas. The fast-casual Pie Five chain debuted in 2011.
Crane spoke Tuesday with Nation’s Restaurant News about his move to the 300-unit operator:
What was attractive about the CEO position at Rave?
First and foremost, I like pizza. But the segment is the next frontier in fast casual. Burgers have led the way in the breadth of brands in fast casual. As consumers are spending their dollars, the continued double-digit growth of fast casual is very attractive.
Rave has the legacy Pizza Inn buffet brand, as well as the fast-casual Pie Five. How do you see the balance going forward?
I was growing up in Kansas City, my friends and I would eat at Pizza Inn all the time. Now that I know the brand more, and it is getting new designs, menu and getting growth going as well. There’s a lot of momentum for the legacy brand with a great franchise base. Pie Five, by just being in the fast-casual segment, and in pizza is a good segment.
What differentiates Pie Five in the segment?
We have four crusts [thin, traditional, pan and gluten free]. It’s a very consistent product with fresh toppings. There’s a breadth of menu with fresh salads and desserts. It just takes a little time to educate the consumer. You can have a good-for-you option with a thin crust or an indulgent option with our pan pizza. This is a paradigm shift in how people consume pizza.
What are the strengths of the brands?
For Pizza Inn, it’s the history and heritage. It’s 60-plus years old. It’s got a great franchise base and there has been some innovation. … Pie Five is still young, at 93 units, but there are opportunities with opening our first drive-thru. Delivery is another opportunity to look at for us. There’s a lot of low-hanging fruit.
What similarities do you see between fast-casual pizza and fast-casual burgers, where you have roots?
When people are voting with their dollars. There is stagnant growth in quick service and casual dining, but there is consistent growth in fast casual. You are seeing that in the burger business. You are seeing that now in the pizza business. There is white space ahead. We have the ability to grow.
What are the challenges for Rave?
We have to work on our same-store-sales base and our AUVs [average unit volumes] right now. Our last couple of quarters have been down. That’s our No. 1 challenge. There are opportunities in [dining] occasions, delivery and innovation.
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