By Anna Rumer
The Desert Sun
April 7, 2016
As soon as this summer, Indio residents will be able to sink their teeth into personalized artisanal pizzas in Indio Towne Center at California’s first Your Pie location.
Your Pie first opened in 2008 in Athens, Ga. as a family operation, but soon expanded across the country after fast casual pizza began to take off. In 2013, the company was named one of the Top New Franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine.
With a focus on hand-tossed dough, craft beers and a Chipotle-esque ordering system, Vice President of Development Ken Caldwell believes the restaurant creates a shared experience similar to that of dining in Italy while also providing people the opportunity to get their personalized pie and get out.
Two other similar pizza shops, Blaze and Pieology, are scheduled to open within the next few months in Palm Desert and Rancho Mirage, respectively, but franchise owner Scott Burr isn’t overly concerned about the competition.
Due to the relative novelty of the idea to the area and distance between locations, the La Quinta resident believes there’s enough demand for pizza to make it work. He’s sure Your Pie’s quality will surpass its competitors anyway.
“Nobody in the Coachella Valley is really even familiar with the concept of down-the-line pizza,” he said. “I’m happy to go up against anyone with this.”
He expects that when the shop opens in mid-to-late June, business will take off.
“It’s a booming community out here in North Indio and … there’s really no pizza restaurants,” he said.
The restaurant, located at 42250-B Jackson St., would employ around 25 employees.
Indio’s Your Pie would be the furthest west the east coast company has pushed and the beginning of what Caldwell hopes is the first of many in what he sees as the heart of fast casual pizza dining in California.
“We hope that this is the seed that really starts to germinate in California,” he said.
The company also has a deal signed with a franchisee in San Jose, but Caldwell said it will be a while before that location gets up and running. If Indio takes to the restaurant, he’d like to see 10 more Your Pies in-state by the end of the year.
“We will really have it grow at a controlled pace,” he said. “We won’t grow just for growth’s sake.”
Burr is also interested in expanding his franchises if things go well, but hasn’t committed to anything at this point.
The explosion of down-the-line pizza restaurants in the Coachella Valley isn’t uncommon, according to Darren Tristano, President of Technomic Inc., a company that does research and consulting for restaurants.
Even as fast food and traditional restaurant growth slows, fast casual restaurants continue to expand with a lot of success, he said. Most of these restaurants focus on lunch, but at least half of fast casual pizza’s business comes from dinner customers, giving it an advantage against competitors like Panera.
The appeal of pizza places like Your Pie largely comes with the amount of personalization and face-to-face interaction the customer has when ordering their food, Tristano said. It’s not just ordering onions on your pizza, it’s being able to count out how many onions are on your pizza.
“You have a higher level of quality and freshness and control,” Tristano said.
It’s the opposite model of businesses like Domino’s, which recently dropped the “pizza” from its name and developed a line of sandwiches and salads in order to gain wider appeal.
“These are very focused,” Tristano said. “They do it well.”
An influx of similar restaurants could oversaturate the market depending on its maturity, but Tristano wouldn’t be surprised if at least two or three chains were able to coexist within the valley.
“Ultimately, it comes down to how good of a restaurant you are and if people want to come back,” he said.