Food Industry Vet Betting on Pie

Sugar_Cream_Pie 304A hospitality veteran is launching a new pie restaurant — with the hope of baking up a popular franchise.

Ron Wolf, who founded the Georgia Restaurant Association, is opening up a new fast-casual restaurant called That Pie Place.

The first location is set to open this month at 6355 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road in Sandy Springs. The hope is to begin franchising in late 2013, with the goal of having 200 locations by 2020, Wolf said.

He’s banking on the rapid growth of the fast-casual segment, which had about $30 billion in sales last year in the United States. That’s almost 10 percent of the $375 billion restaurant industry, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago food industry research and consulting firm Technomic Inc.

“It’s been growing at a double-digit rate since 2000,” Tristano said. Fast casual has a lot of traction because the food quality and service is good, and the price point is attractive, he said.

“It wasn’t a coincidence that I wanted to be in that segment,” said Wolf, who founded the Georgia Restaurant Association in 2003 and served as its CEO until 2010. Also, in the past, he worked for Holiday Inn Worldwide and AFC Enterprises Inc.

That Pie Place will be Wolf’s return to food service after almost 30 years.

“I had the desire to do one last project,” said the 63-year-old. “I believe this can work … We want this to be, perhaps, the next great opportunity for that mom-and-pop operator.”

He’s teamed with franchise veteran Daryl Dollinger, president and co-founder of Raving Brands, now called Big Game Brands. The Atlanta company founded such fast-causal concepts as Moe’s Southwest Grill, Mama Fu’s and Planet Smoothie.

That Pie Place is a side project for Dollinger.

“It’s almost ridiculous how good the product is,” Dollinger said. “We are doing something that nobody else is doing in Atlanta.”

Chef Todd Kazenske, an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta, developed the menu.

That Pie Place will serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. The pies are created before the customer’s eyes, in a format similar to Moe’s Southwest Grill or Chipotle. People can customize their fillings.

Some of the standard pies include egg and cheese, chicken cordon bleu, cheeseburger, salmon teriyaki or Philly cheese steak. Dessert options include pecan, fruit, cheesecake and s’mores.

Pies range in price from $1.99 to $5.99.

It takes three minutes or less to bake the pies. They are easily portable, making the restaurant ideal for college campuses or airports, Wolf said.

“Our whole model is ‘Come play with us,’ ” Wolf said. “What do you like? We have the ability to make an incredible variety of different flavor profiles.”

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