The first franchise location of the Spin! Neapolitan Pizza brand opened in Southern California last month, marking a next generation of growth for the Hofman Hospitality Group — and its next generation.
The Hofman family has been running restaurants in Southern California for more than 60 years. Harold Hofman first opened a beach stand in Long Beach, Calif., that offered “Hofburgers” and cheese dogs. That concept grew into Hof’s Hut Restaurant & Bakery, founded in 1951, which has five locations today.
Harold Hofman’s son Craig Hofman later took over, and in the late 1990s developed the Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que brand, a soon-to-be-18-unit casual-dining chain, which was added to the family’s portfolio.
The family’s latest move was becoming the first franchisees of the fast-casual Spin pizza brand, which was founded in Overland Park, Kan., in 2005. The Spin franchise offers an opportunity for Craig Hofman’s four children to step up, though they all have been involved in the family’s other two brands.
Brad Hofman, Craig Hofman’s second child, spoke with Nation’s Restaurant News about the family’s next phase of growth.
Your family has developed its own brands so far. Why franchise?
We were going down the path of creating our own brand and doing the research, but my dad read a profile of Spin in NRN, and he wanted to check it out. We went out to Kansas City, [Mo.], including all the siblings, and we were blown away by the Spin operation. The food was spectacular, and the whole service model was so well done, we didn’t think we could improve on that.
Your dad started Lucille’s when there weren’t really any barbecue chains in Southern California, but there is a heck of a lot of pizza now. Why move into such a crowded niche?
As he did in 1999 with barbecue, Dad thought that Neapolitan pizza, specifically, was ready for a great operator in the area. There were a few one-offs, but none with a high-end menu with attractive prices in a fast-casual environment. Since then, a lot has changed, and we’re seeing a lot more people trying to do it, but a lot of the other operators are following more of a build-your-own pizza model. Spin is more of a premium fast-casual concept. You order from a counter and there is a menu board, but after that it moves to more full service. A server brings your food and will get your drink order or additional items, like gelato for dessert.
You took on a big territory.
I think we took the 11 southern counties of California, and we’re planning 37 units. We also have an agreement to be franchise developer for the northern half of California.
Where is the first unit?
It’s in Orange, Calif., and it opened in May. As operators of big, complex restaurants like Lucille’s, we were able to bring some of our expertise into the design. We put some systems in place, like kitchen display and back-office management systems, which they didn’t have, and Spin will be looking at bringing some of those aspects to their stores in Kansas City.
Tell me about your siblings and the roles you all play in the family business now.
I have three siblings, and we’re all very involved with Lucille’s and Hof’s Hut, too. But with Spin we are taking on a little bit more. My dad is also very involved in Spin.
The oldest is Ashley Pedersen, 35. She’s a graphic designer and has become our brand manager.
I’m the oldest son, at 32. For Lucille’s I’m director of marketing. With Spin I’m supervising the new operations team there, and I’m a partner.
My younger brother Ryan Hofman, 30, is construction manager. He handles the building of all of our restaurants and facility management.
The youngest is Dirk Hofman, 26. His passion has been in the alcohol and bar business. He picked the beer and wine list for Spin, which has great craft beers and 20 wines by the bottle.