The founders of Quiznos and Smashburger will debut a new fast-casual concept this week that aims to redefine the next generation of pizza.
Live Basil Pizza will open Thursday in Denver and offer made-to-order 11-inch pizzas, baked in less than five minutes in a high-temperature brick oven.
Live Basil is a new concept developed by Consumer Capital Partners, a Denver-based private-equity firm lead by Richard and Rick Schaden, the father-son team that also built the Quiznos sandwich chain. Quiznos changed hands in a debt-for-equity swap last year, but Consumer Capital still operates and franchises the 206-unit Smashburger “better-burger” concept.
The new pizza concept was initially rumored to be called Honest Pizza, but there was a last-minute switch, said Rick Schaden, who is developing Live Basil with Consumer Capital managing partner Tom Ryan.
The name Live Basil better represented what Schaden described as a differentiated positioning within the rapidly growing fast-casual pizza niche, with a focus on freshness and quality ingredients — like the basil plucked from live plants as the pizza is assembled in front of guests.
Rather than calling the concept fast-casual pizza, “We call this the fresh pizza segment,” Schaden said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.
“Fast casual is just the service system, but this is really about fresh pizza that’s made right in front of you,” he said.
Live Basil customers can select from pre-designed classic “favorites” or more modern “signature” pizzas, ranging from $7 to $9. Or they can build their own pies, with up to three toppings for a base price of $8.
The concept will offer a traditional Neapolitan-style crust and a gluten-free option. The dough is hand-stretched into the pan, and pizzas are baked in a high-temperature brick oven with gas heat and a little oak for flavor, Ryan said.
The pizza sauce is made with organic Italian San Marzano tomatoes, which are not pre-cooked, “so it has a fresh, bright flavor to it,” Ryan added.
Other ingredients — from imported Greek olives to kurobuta ham — are a cut above, he said, noting that, “Everything is either organic, all-natural or authentic.”
In addition to salads and a drink lineup that includes Boylan fountain beverages, teas, beer and wine, Live Basil will offer smoothies made with Häagen-Dazs sorbets and fresh fruit. Smashburger also uses Häagen-Dazs ice cream for its milkshakes.
Live Basil has a footprint of about 2,000 square feet. Consumer Capital has a plan for selecting real estate, but Schaden declined to reveal details on the strategy.