Grimaldi's Pizzeria plots growth

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A new location of its coal-fired brick oven concept will open in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, Texas

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria of Arizona is scheduled to open later this month a new location of its coal-fired brick oven concept in the Dallas suburb of Grapevine, Texas, bringing its total restaurant count to 26.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain’s Grapevine unit will cover 2,995 square feet with a patio and seat 129 guests.

“We see a lot of opportunity in Texas and are excited to bring our New York-style pizzeria to this region,” Joey Ciolli, president and chief executive of Grimaldi's, said in a statement.

Grimaldi’s Pizzeria already operates eight locations in Texas, featuring hand-built coal-fired ovens that weigh 25 tons, consume 100 pounds of coal a day and heat up to 1,200 degrees.

Nation’s Restaurant News recently spoke with Eric Greenwald, Grimaldi’s chief operating office, about the chain’s growth plans and operations.

How much is Grimaldi’s expanding this year?

We have begun construction on an additional four locations to open this year. We are extremely excited for our newest locations coming soon to Grapevine, Texas; in the mall at the Palazzo in Las Vegas; Mt. Pleasant, S.C.; and Citrus Park Mall in Tampa, Fla.

Where are you looking for growth?

Of course, we are always looking to expand in our current markets, which include Arizona, Texas, Nevada, Florida and South Carolina. Thanks to our overwhelming fan base, we also get recommendations daily on new locations that fans want us to expand to. Currently, we are taking some of those fan suggestions and looking at properties in Colorado and Kansas City.

What kinds of locations do you look for? What are your typical needs for square footage and seats?

We have very specific space needs and try to seek out properties that offer 3,400 to 4,000 square feet with at least a 1,000-square-foot patio. We've found great success in outdoor lifestyle malls and properties with high traffic patterns. Typically we prefer an end cap space and parking that will accommodate the high volume of guests we tend to attract. Our spaces usually seat at least 150-175 guests.

What demographics are you shooting for?

What's unique about the Grimaldi's concept is that we appeal to all. From newborns to seniors, we've found fans in every demographic and age. We are appealing primarily to families, but we get a mix of everyone. At one table you might find a pair of mothers after a yoga class and at the other a group of businessmen. Our focus is to accommodate everyone and ensure our space meets everyone's needs.

What is the average per person check? How are you managing food costs?

We are fortunate, as we produce many of our own food products. We make our own hand-pulled mozzarella to top our pizzas and we work with the mill that mills our own flour. We also work closely with [our supplier partner] to keep food cost low within our restaurants. We are also very fortunate not to have a large menu. We stay focused on great quality ingredients and stay authentic to what makes Grimaldi's great: Pizza. Since we focus on such a limited number of products, we are able to bring in large quantities, enabling us to keep costs down and take advantage of bulk purchasing.

How has the concept weathered the recession so well?

We offer exceptional food and service at a good price. There are not many places you can go and feed a family of four with exceptional service for about $40.

What is the future for your Coal Burger concept, which you opened last year?

Currently we are concentrating on our location in Scottsdale, and we are always looking for our next location in a high-populated area with great visibility.

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