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Ryan added that competition from other fast-pizza chains or the national brands like Pizza Hut and Domino’s would not inhibit Live Basil’s growth, as long as the concept remains focused on its operations and profitability.

“There is a proliferation of concepts with differing degrees of attributes,” he said. “Some are more focused on speed, some traditional styles of pizza made in front of you. … At the end of the day, our mantra is to serve pizza you feel good about eating. The designed-in differentiators in Live Basil let us stand on our own. … To do that, you have to be distinct, good and make money in the model.”

A pie from Solos Pizza Café, which opened its first location in 2007.

At Solos, customer service is a key priority for differentiation, Banick said. However, the menu also has differences from what other fast-casual pizza startups offer. The crust is a blend between hand-tossed pizza and a Neapolitan style that is sturdier than traditional Neapolitan offerings. Banick added that Solos evolves its menu regularly based on customer feedback, which led to the So Lo Calorie menu of pizzas with 500 calories or less and limited-time offers like the Cuban Pizza.

A new marketing campaign broke in mid-July with billboards and radio and print ads that emphasize the brand’s tagline, “Every one is an individual” — which refers to both individual customers and their personalized pizzas.

Having tested and developed Solos’ marketing and operations systems so thoroughly has helped the chain get off to a good start in the race to build out the segment, Banick said, possibly more than its advantage of starting six years ago.

“While there is urgency to expand, we were in that process long before these other players got into the game,” he said.

Contact Mark Brandau at mark.brandau@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @Mark_from_NRN