It was back in the summer of 2004 when entrepreneur Bill Freeman, an admitted pizza lover, teamed up with his friend and pizza maker Francisco “Patxi” Azpiroz to bring Chicago-style pizza to the San Francisco and Denver areas.
The partners knew those markets posed a challenge in that many of the residents pursue healthful lifestyles, and pizza just wasn’t always top of mind when it came to dining decisions.
The question Freeman and Azpiroz asked themselves was, “How do you make a Chicago pizza healthy?”
The solution, they found, was simple. Patxi’s Pizza would offer whole-wheat crust; low-fat mozzarella, vegan and soy cheeses; gluten-free options; all-natural, nitrate-free meats; and other healthful tweaks.
“Our menu strategy focuses on being the best in the upscale pizza market while providing something for everyone when it comes to pizza,” said Freeman, Patxi’s chief executive.
Another challenge the partners found themselves facing was that people lead busy lives and want things quickly. So Freeman and Azpiroz added speed to their model. The chain is launching proprietary Pic-a-Pie software that enables customers to claim hot, fresh pizzas even before they emerge from the oven.
“We are developing a predictive algorithm that sends our guests’ most popular combinations to the kitchen and then displays them on a tablet when our guests arrive,” Freeman said. “They will be able to see what is in the oven and claim their pizza that may only have five minutes of baking remaining.”
Today, Patxi’s is thriving despite an unstable economic environment, Freeman said, due in part to the fact that the chain offers a high-quality, affordable product served in an upscale yet comfortable setting. Freeman noted Patxi’s has generated same-store-sales growth of at least 14 percent over the past four years.
With seven locations in San Francisco and one in Denver, Patxi’s has plans to add two more locations in the Bay Area and three or four in Colorado. In addition, it is in the process of exploring opportunities in Texas.
“Our plan is to increase same-store sales and profitability over the next year through innovation and customer loyalty,” Freeman said. “Through these fundamentals we will continue to make Patxi’s a better place to work and provide value for all of our stakeholders.
“While we do have a five-year strategic plan, we work one year at a time so that we can be flexible and reactive to the changing financial and social landscape,” he added.
The company also works to engage the communities in which it is located, giving back through its 52 Weeks of Giving program. Each week every store hosts fundraisers to benefit local schools and nonprofit organizations that support children’s education, health and well-being.
“To date we have donated more than $141,000 to partner organizations through this program,” Freeman said.
Andrew Freeman — who is no relation to Bill Freeman — president of Andrew Freeman & Co., a San Francisco-based restaurant and hospitality consultancy, said Patxi’s Pizza is primed for greater success in 2013.
“Their business model is obviously resonating with their target market base,” he said. “They offer high-quality products at great value in warm settings.
“For me, it comes down to the fact that they have stayed true to their vision; they have an active community and give-back program, and locations all seem to have a welcoming and warm spirit,” he continued. “I do think quality home-meal replacement is a trend that continues to grow, and Patxi’s is a perfect solution to eat in or take out.”