Emily Hyland and executive chef Matthew Hyland opened Emmy Squared in Brooklyn in 2016 with a focus on creative Detroit-style pizza. Many New Yorkers hadn't heard of Detroit-style, which borrows from Sicilian and Chicago-style pizzas with its pan-baked pies. But once they tried it, they loved it.
The brand developed a cult following with dishes like The Emmy, a ranch-based pie topped with banana peppers and red onion; and le Big Matt, named for the chef and topped with pickles, a special sauce and tons of cheese. Emmy's particular brand of elevated comfort food served in a neighborhood restaurant wasn't the easiest to scale, though. With the brand's popularity secure, the Hylands looked for outside help to grow. They tapped Howard Greenstone, who has helped expand restaurant concepts like Rosa Mexicano.
"I would call them artisanal restaurateurs,” said Greenstone, who is now Emmy Squared’s CEO. “They didn't have much experience growing in multiples, which is a different world. And so, we formed a partnership.”
The brand has just opened its seventh location, but these aren't cookie-cutter replicas, Greenstone said. There are local elements incorporated in each restaurant. In Nashville, Tenn., for example, there's a hot chicken wedge salad and hot chicken pizza. In addition to its signature pies — like The Emmy, a ranch-based pie topped with banana peppers and red onion — the menu also includes offers gourmet burgers, sandwiches and salads.
Today, there are Emmy locations throughout New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The brand plans to grow by embracing its neighborhood status, meaning they'll look to grow in different neighborhoods in the cities they've already opened in.
"What I have found over the years is that at our level, which is the aspirational pizza market, if you will, people they only care about the meal they are served when they walk into the restaurant," he said. "They don't care how many of your units you have; everything else doesn't matter to them. So, I think we try to make it a one guest experience at a time mentality in every place we go."
Editor's note: The 2020 Breakout Brands — emerging innovative restaurant chains with fewer than 10 units that have proven growth potential — were selected and interviewed before the coronavirus pandemic hit the restaurant industry. Nation's Restaurant News has chosen to highlight these innovative brands as planned, but their growth plans may have been impacted by recent events. For our most up-to-date coverage, visit the coronavirus homepage.
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