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&pizza gets back to its roots as founder Michael Lastoria passes the reins to new CEO Mike Burns


Washington, D.C.-based company &pizza is known for being an unconventional brand, from its oblong pies with quirky toppings, to its texting-only “Pizza Plug” hotline and political messaging. Although the emerging brand was once a significant part of the foodservice cultural zeitgeist (cofounder Michael Lastoria was named to NRN’s 2021 Power List), the company has been fairly quiet for a couple of years.

As it turns out, &pizza has been brewing up some changes behind closed doors, including the company’s first CEO transition, from Lastoria to newcomer former Rave Restaurant Group COO and executive vice president, Mike Burns. Now, “we’re back,” Burns said, as &pizza is ready to take on a new era of growth and opportunity (including franchising), while rekindling that rebellious streak that made &pizza stand out from the rest of the growing fast-casual pizza sector.

Burns joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches, guest hosted this week by NRN senior editor Joanna Fantozzi, to talk about why he was drawn to the brand, the significant digital technology changes coming to &pizza, and why customers will want to consider getting an ampersand (&) tattoo soon.

In this conversation, you’ll learn more about:

  • Why it’s important to find a fitting successor when you step back from a founder role
  • Why &pizza made the shift from in-house-built technology to an outsourced tech stack
  • How to make sure you don’t outgrow your technology capabilities
  • How to make a digital rewards program stand out (Hint: it starts with naming your loyalty program, “The Dead Presidents Club”)
  • How to maintain a unique, plucky, startup-like spirit, even when you have sizable development plans in the works


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