What is in this article?:
- CMO Perspectives: Pizza Inn Holdings' Flynn Dekker
- Long runway ahead for fast-casual pizza
This interview is part of CMO Perspectives, presented by NRN in partnership with the National Restaurant Association’s Marketing Executives Group. The monthly feature explores how leading executives are navigating the ever-changing restaurant marketing landscape.
Flynn Dekker, chief marketing officer for Pizza Inn and Pie Five Pizza
Long runway ahead for fast-casual pizza
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How big can the fast-casual pizza segment grow?
How big is the sub sandwich market? That’s what we’re talking about here. Do you know anyone who says, ‘I’m dying for a sandwich today?’ Replace the word sandwich with pizza and tell me if that doesn’t change the emotional truth of that statement. Pizza has been a staple of the American diet since long before many of the other types of fast-casual offerings that are thriving today appeared, so I believe you’ll see numbers similar to the other large fast-casual brands in our category before long.
You were one of the first fast-casual pizza concepts to the scene. Now it seems like a lot of competitors have emerged. How do you differentiate Pie Five?
Pie Five is all about consistency. The death of any restaurant — whether it be QSR, fast casual, casual or fine dining — is lack of consistency. We deliver a great pie each and every time while offering guests more choices than our competition, all for one low price. We will continue to lead the pack based on our experience and passion for innovation.
How do you see the future of this segment ending up?
There are going to be a lot of new entrants into this segment over the next few years. That will initially help expand the size of the overall pie, so to speak, by increasing consumer awareness of fast-casual pizza. Those that continue to innovate, deliver a consistently good product and have a clear vision will eventually be found in every market in this country. Those that assume a limited menu means limited effort will fall by the wayside.
What restaurant chain (other than your own) do you think is doing a great job and why?
I like up-and-comers like Freebirds World Burrito. They seamlessly blend culture with commerce and have found a formula for taking the chain out of chain restaurant. I also love what Dunkin’ Donuts has done over the last several years to reverse their fortunes. Through product enhancements, public relations and clarity of vision, they have methodically steered that monstrous ship in the right direction. They are the gold standard when I think about a brand that has risen from near obscurity back to industry leadership.
How do you divide the company marketing resources between Pie Five and Pizza Inn?
Each brand has their own set of resources because each has its own set of needs. The challenges are unique for both brands, so the supporting staff must be hyper-focused on the specific needs of each. The unseen benefit from having two unique brands is that often a great idea that may not be the right fit for one may be a perfect fit for the other. While I like to keep the strategy piece separate, I expect the teams to work together for the greater good of all.
Clay Dover is the chief marketing officer at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers. He serves as a board member for the NRA Marketing Executives Group and as an Advisory Board member of several restaurant industry organizations, including NRN's MUFSO conference board.