Naked Pizza, which has drawn buzz over the past year for its big-name investors, social-media savvy and healthful menu, formally takes the wraps off its first franchised location this weekend.
Naked Pizza North America Franchise Co. LLC, based in New Orleans, expects to have a half dozen locations open by year-end. The parent company, World’s Healthiest Pizza LLC, owns the concept's first — and until now, only — location in New Orleans.
“We really want to be the Briggs & Stratton of QSR,” said Jeff Leach, who co-founded Naked Pizza in September 2006 with partner Randy Crochet in a flooded-out New Orleans bakery. Like the dependable small engine, Leach said that Naked Pizza has been crafted “to start every time.”
The Miami Beach store, opened by franchisee NK Pizza Group of Aventura, Fla., has a corner location at 13th Street and Washington Avenue, just blocks from a new Five Guys burger unit.
Offering only carryout and delivery, the prototype Miami Beach unit is slightly larger than the typical 1,000- to 1,200-square-foot retail space that Naked Pizza is targeting, Leach said. Pizzas come in three sizes with a choice of toppings and “all-natural ancestral blend cheese.” Prices are $4.99 for a 10-inch pie , $5.99 for a 12-inch and $6.99 for a 14-inch.
Leach said cost of development is between $300,000 and $350,000.
Naked Pizza's next openings are planned for Louisville, Ky., on Sept. 6; Altamonte Springs, Fla., in October; and Winter Springs, Fla., in November, with a number of others in the construction pipeline, Leach said. Between 35 and 75 stores are expected to be open by this time next year, and more than 300 units have been contracted, including a multi-unit agreement with a development group in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Shannon O’Quinn and John Caparella, whose franchise company Through Thick & Thin LLC of Orlando is developing stores in that area and the western coast of Florida, said they were attracted to Naked Pizza because of its “predictable business model” and the “scalability and footprint.” They said they were also impressed with the founders and investors, the latter of which includes Dallas billionaire Mark Cuban in the parent company and Robert Kraft of The Kraft Group of Boston in the franchising company.
Manuel Mattei, chef with the NK Pizza Group that is opening the first Miami store, said he was impressed with the company's “food anthropology and amazing taste” as well as the appeal of selling a more healthful meal.
Leach, who was trained as an archeologist and has a diabetic daughter, called Naked Pizza “an evolutionary approach” to the pie, emphasizing the low-glycemic dough that has more than 10 grains as well as probiotics and prebiotics.
“It’s a Trojan Horse pizza,” Leach said of the pie’s nutritional values. “It has a diversity of nutrients and a diversity of fiber.”
In creating the basic three sizes of pizzas with 20 toppings, Leach said he considered “science first and branding second with operations third.”
However, he said Naked Pizza and its franchisees are committed to getting the pizza to the customer within 25 minutes of its order. The Miami Beach store, for example, only delivers within a nine-minute radius to ensure the pizzas, which take 14 minutes to cook, get to customers on time.
Leach, who was an early adopter of Twitter and other social media, has installed iPads in the front-counter areas of the two existing stores to collect e-mail addresses and a television wall featuring informational videos — or what Leach calls the “Live Naked Channel” — to entertain those waiting for pizzas.
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].