Two sibling veterans of the pizza industry are looking to deliver a fresh batch of locations to the Richmond market.
Brothers Garry and John Fitchett signed an agreement in December to open or develop 25 Firenza Pizza locations in Virginia and North Carolina over 10 years. While no locations have been finalized, Richmond could see between five and seven Firenza locations, according to Garry Fitchett.
“Richmond is key – no question about it,” he said. “(Richmond) is a strong market.”
Fitchett, a Williamsburg resident, said he and his brother, who lives in Denver, plan to open the first Richmond Firenza by the end of 2016. They are looking for locations that are between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet. He said prime areas include Short Pump, downtown near North Eighth and East Main streets, Midlothian, and around VCU.
“You want to make sure you have a solid base of population for each store,” Fitchett said. “We look to have at least 100,000 people per store.”
The first Firenza locations opened last year in Virginia – in Fairfax and Alexandria. The company was launched by Dave Baer and Dave Wood, who, like Fitchett, learned the trade through Domino’s Pizza.
Baer and Wood were franchisees of Domino’s. Fitchett said he helped oversee the company’s growth from 1983, when it had 832 stores, to 1991, when it had more than 5,000. He worked on the corporate side, going from an assistant store manager to a franchise operations director overseeing 550 stores.
“That’s really where I cut my teeth with learning business in general,” Fitchett said of his time with Domino’s. He also sold and developed Quiznos franchises from 2002 to 2010.
Unlike Domino’s’ emphasis on delivering pizzas, Firenza will look to do more sit-down-style dining. Firenza does both lunch and dinner service, and sells beer and wine. The company sells custom-made 10-inch pizzas and salads with unlimited toppings for about $8.
“If they want five pepperonis or 20 pepperonis, they can get anything they want,” Fitchett said.
Firenza joins a growing number of pizza sellers doing custom, individual pies, including Pie Five Pizza, which has locations open at VCU and the West End and a Willow Lawn store in the works.
Fitchett said pizza is a $40-billion-a-year industry that can withstand extra operators.
“We just looked at it as a business that was going to grow with or without us,” he said. “Pizza is just popular, and it’s still growing.”
Fitchett said it will cost between $245,000 and $500,000 to get a Firenza open. He is on the hunt for franchisees with a net worth of $500,000 and $200,000 in liquid assets. The brothers plan to both open stores themselves and find other franchisees to buy into the Firenza brand.
Great to see a new Virginia-based franchise system get off the ground and target the RVA market as part of its growth. Pizza is a tough, low margin business, but if their pizza tastes great and franchisees are smart in site selection and hiring, there’s plenty of room for success. I look forward to trying my first Firenza pizza in 2016!