Skip navigation

San Francisco pizzeria Flour and Water charts growth after resetting business plan

Partners Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow share how they plan to scale their pizza and pasta business through a CPG line and hub-and-spoke expansion model.


By the time 2020 rolled around, chefs Thomas McNaughton and Ryan Pollnow were tired. The partners in Flour + Water Hospitality Group had built multiple concepts in a two-block radius in San Francisco’s Mission District over the course of more than a decade, assembling a 200-person team during that time through hard-earned, organic growth.

McNaughton admits that the COVID pandemic brought a much-needed break — one that proved to be transformative to the business.

“It was the first time that we almost had like a breath of fresh air, and we said, ‘What the hell do we want to do and how do we want to move forward?’” he said. “It was this incredibly impactful time and exercise for us, and we were able to, like, wipe the slate clean and say, ‘Listen, all the noise is gone. What do we want to do? Who do we want to show up as? How do we want to expand?’”

As an answer, the chefs and their partners rewrote their business plan, determining that their path forward would include a hub-and-spoke expansion model that allowed for more off-premises service, as well as a CPG line of organic pastas. McNaughton and Pollnow joined the latest episode of Take-Away with Sam Oches to discuss that reset, how they’re planning to maintain quality and integrity as they scale, and how they’re taking tips from none other than Apple as they plan their hub-and-spoke strategy. 

In this conversation, you’ll learn why:

  • Sometimes simpler is better
  • Restaurants are vital to community ecosystems
  • Don’t be afraid to hit the reset button
  • You can grow your business without being a sell-out
  • A hub-and-spoke model is perfect for scaling scratch-made menus
  • Your flagship location should set the vibe and atmosphere for your brand

Contact Sam Oches at [email protected].

Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.