Spin! Neapolitan Pizza, a five-unit hybrid fast-casual concept founded in Kansas City, Mo., has opened its first franchised unit in Orange County, Calif.

Spin, founded eight years ago by industry veterans Gail and Richard Lozoff and Edwin Brownell, also started construction on the sixth company-owned unit in the Kansas City market in June. That location should open in September, Brownell said.

The unit in City of Orange, Calif., is owned and operated by Hofman Hospitality Group, which has a franchise agreement to open 37 Spin units in Southern California and expects to open the second in 2014 in Los Alamitos, Calif. HHG founded and operates 17 Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que locations in Arizona, California and Nevada, and five Hof’s Hut restaurants in Southern California.

A prototypical Spin unit covers 4,000 square feet, said Brownell. An average unit has 120 indoor seats, 30 patio seats and about 30 employees, he said.

Spin takes a modern approach to Neapolitan-style pizza with a menu that was created in collaboration with chef Michael Smith. Beers, sangria and a selection of 20 bottles of wine complement the pizza menu. Alcoholic beverages are about 10 to 12 percent of total sales, Brownell said.

Brownell spoke recently with Nation’s Restaurant News about plans ahead for the growing concept.

What does the expansion to California mean for Spin?

We feel great about moving into California. We’re excited to be a brand that moves from the center of the country to the West Coast. The franchisee was really the driving force. It’s a great team out there.

What’s attractive about Spin as a franchise concept?

The brand is well defined and the product is terrific. We really go out of our way to create an experience for the guest.

Your format is really enhanced fast casual, with the wait staff working the tables. How do the customers perceive that?

Fast casual has been around for a few years now. We feel we’ve taken our service style one step beyond the typical fast-casual [concept]. Guests that come into Spin do get a level of service for the price point and feel like they are getting a great value.

What is the check average?

Lunch is about $10 and dinner is around $13-$14.

What are the best sellers on the menu?

Pepperoni pizza is always a big seller, and we sell an awful lot of the margherita pizzas. We have a chicken and goat cheese that sells well. Our wheat-crust pizzas sell well, especially the vegetarian primavera. We’ve seen that sell well in California.

How are your carryout sales?

Our average carryout business and phone-in orders is about 20 percent.

How do you handle tipping in the hybrid fast-casual service model?

It really requires our managers to pay attention, because we do tip pooling. All the tips go into a container, and at the end of the day the managers have a formula to split the tips among the service staff. Managers have to watch to make sure the service is great so that some [employees] aren’t carrying more than their weight.

What percentage of customers tip?

A majority of our customers tip. The customers have a great experience, and they are generous when they come to the tips. We do take their credit card at the counter. When they finish ordering, we swipe the credit card and then the receipt goes into a guest-check presenter. The check is open so that a guest can add additional drinks or dessert to their check if they choose without having to go back and pay again. We adjust the check accordingly. They basically sign the check at the end of the meal. They are in control of the experience. They can leave whenever they choose to leave.

You added gluten-free dough to menu about four years ago. How has that trended?

It’s turned out to be a very important part of our menu lineup. It’s roughly 10 percent of our pizza sales now. We have a separate oven, so we make sure we maintain the integrity of the gluten-free product.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless