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How Via 313 is spreading its Detroit roots

Brandon and Zane Hunt moved to Austin, Texas, from Detroit after the Great Recession and opened a Detroit-style pizza concept that now includes 17 locations, with 30 targeted.


It’s a no-brainer that brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt would adopt Via 313 as the name of their pizza concept when it first opened out of a trailer 12 years ago. Via means “by the way of” and 313 is Detroit’s area code.

At the height of the Great Recession in 2008, Zane relocated from Detroit to Austin, Texas, because his career, and his city, were hit especially hard during the crisis. Motivated by his young family, he turned it into an opportunity to start fresh somewhere else.

“I chose Austin because of the weather, the attitude, the vibe. It was totally different. I think it’s important to start over at least once in your life and that’s what I did,” he said.

His brother Brandon joined him about a year and a half later and they were then able to marinade on an idea for a pizza concept together. That’s how both of them wanted to “start over,” as they had pizza backgrounds and liked the idea of bringing the “square pizza” they were accustomed to in Detroit to a new market.

“We went through iterations and at the time, it was the opening phases of Neapolitan pizza, but we ultimately settled on Detroit-style. The city was so receptive and is still the same way today. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation,” Zane said.

“Obviously it was a selfish move. We missed the pizza we grew up eating and we wanted it down here,” Brandon added. “We’re also sharing a slice of home. It is who we are, and it is our story.”

That story officially got its start as a food truck after Brandon, Zane and Zane’s father-in-law pitched in $10,000 apiece. In those early days, they knew they could get by if they cleared $200 a day. The first day, Via 313 cleared $214.

“We knew then we were going to be fine because nobody knew we were there or who we were. We’ve grown every day since,” Brandon said.

The brothers soon opened a second trailer across town and were saving every penny to achieve their dream – a brick-and-mortar location. In April 2015, they did just that. A second brick-and-mortar location came a year later, and another two years after that. By 2018, Via 313 included two trailers and three buildings spread throughout Austin, and its signature Detroit-style pizza was quickly gaining familiarity.

“We got to a point where this became the largest things we’ve ever been involved in,” Brandon said.

It also started to feel too big, and the brothers realized their competency was in starting a business, but not scaling one. So, they turned to several investment bankers to help and, in late 2020, landed an investment from Savory Fund, whose portfolio also includes brands like Swig, Mo’Bettahs, Crack Shack and more. Three years later, Via 313 now has 17 locations and a presence in Texas, Utah and, most recently, Phoenix.

“We’ve leaned on Savory for a lot of guidance. There are things you can get away with with three to five locations that you just can’t do with 25 to 30 locations,” Brandon Hunt said. “Things have to change for us to scale. (Savory) painting a picture for us before it happened put us at ease. And they wanted the culture. They wanted us around.”

Two things that haven’t – or won’t – change are Via 313’s dedication to Detroit-style pizza and its focus on hospitality. Just 30% of the business is off-premises – well below most pizza brands’ mix – and the Hunt brothers are intentional about ensuring that continues.  

“We’re not just handing you pizza. We want an old-fashioned-type experience,” Zane said.  

The company hopes to bring that experience to about 30 locations in the next few years, with eight targeted for 2024. In addition to having a differentiated “old-fashioned” position, the Hunt brothers also believe having a signature Detroit-style pizza will provide the company with a tailwind as it grows. There is certainly a runway; Technomic Ignite data predicts Detroit-style pizza’s penetration will increase by 0.07 percentage points in the next year and a half, from its current 0.1% of menu instances.

“We’re from Detroit. It’s in our DNA. We’re not on this path to make a quick buck because it’s a fad,” Zane said. “This is who we are and we want to be the best at what we do and that is Detroit-style pizza. A lot of people don’t know this is a thing. Style awareness, brand awareness, it’s still minimal. We’re in the middle of this.”

“I’m super excited to have the potential to be a leader in this space,” Brandon said.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

Vote for Via 313 on our LinkedIn or Instagram pages. The winner will be announced the week of October 30.

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