For quick meals on the fly, diners in Australia might go for a hamburger or sandwich. But they might just as likely go for a savory pie, a commonly available pastry filled with steak, chicken or vegetables. In Australia, everyone has a favorite “pie shop,” but one concept with a bakery-cafe format has ambitions to be a national chain: Pie Face.
Founded by Wayne Homschek, an American-born former investment banker, Pie Face now has 19 units in the Sydney area, all company-owned, and the company recently launched a franchising program there.
Pie Face’s menu is based on savory pies, each with a face on the crust that indicates the flavor. Chicken-mushroom has a smiley face, for example, and steak has a “squiggly face,” Homschek said.
The shops also offer a variety of pastries, muffins and sweets, all baked at a central commissary and delivered fresh daily. In addition, the menu includes espresso-based specialty coffees available in five strengths, from “still asleep,” or decaffeinated, to the boldest, “kick my arse,” recommended as a “jolt for freaks and overachievers.”
You started Pie Face in 2003. Why savory pies?
Savory pies are one of the most popular food items in Australia, yet no national chains were doing them well in a modern format. It’s also more economical than any other QSR item. The pies can be made centrally, frozen or chilled, and baked in stores. Once baked, they can last in pie warmers for eight hours plus. Lastly, savory pies lend themselves to a bakery-cafe format, with other baked items, sweets and coffee.
Tell me about Pie Face as a franchise concept.
Our business model is perfect for franchising, as we make the product centrally, and the franchisee only needs to worry about ordering [online] each day for next-day delivery. This allows the franchisee to focus on his customers and the appearance of the store.
Can you give me some numbers?
The average store size is about 225 square feet. The average unit volume for street stores is the equivalent of about $560,000 in U.S. dollars, and we have been growing at more than 10 percent per year since we started. Our average transaction value is about $6 to $6.50.
FAST FACTS BIRTH DATE: Oct. 2, 1962HOMETOWN: AtlantaPERSONAL: married; one daughter; one cat called “The Bear”HOBBIES: running on the beach; dining out; entertaining friends
BIRTH DATE: Oct. 2, 1962HOMETOWN: AtlantaPERSONAL: married; one daughter; one cat called “The Bear”HOBBIES: running on the beach; dining out; entertaining friends
What are your best sellers?
In addition to the pies, we have a signature item called a “stack,” which is a pie with potato or pea mash and gravy on top of it. It comes in a special box for easy eating. We also do baby sweet pies, such as cherry, apple, blueberry and pecan.
What percentage of sales comes from coffee?
Coffee accounts for about 20 percent to 30 percent of sales. Australia is one of the most sophisticated coffee markets in the world, so drip just doesn’t register here. Our “Wake Me Up” coffee line includes five strength profiles. We make these blends with super-automatic machines that precisely dose, grind and pour the exact amount of coffee and water to get the shots consistent.
You mentioned you’d like to bring the concept to America. Are you actively looking for a partner here?
We are not actively looking, but we are always open to discussions. We think that it is only a matter of time before Americans are properly introduced to the savory pie as a real alternative to their QSR favorites.