Innovative pizza chain heads west
By Myron LoveFeatures Profiles
A Winnipeg-based pizza company looks to expand westward.
Winnipeg-based pizza chain Pizza Hotline’s ambitious
goal of reaching 100 franchise outlets in western Canada within the
next five years is proceeding on schedule.
Winnipeg-based pizza chain Pizza Hotline’s ambitious goal of reaching 100 franchise outlets in western Canada within the next five years is proceeding on schedule.
Voted as the People’s Choice Award winner 2007 in the Best Pizza Delivery category in a local media survey, Pizza Hotline currently has eight locations in Winnipeg, one each in Steinbach, Brandon and Calgary. The company has said it expects to have outlets up and running in Winkler (in south-central Manitoba) and just north of Winnipeg in Selkirk by the end of this year.
Ron Chan, director of franchise development for the chain, notes that Pizza Hotline is working on three
different, but related, concepts simultaneously. The Pizza Hotline concept is strictly take-out and delivery, Cafe 22 is a licensed restaurant concept featuring the Pizza Hotline menu and Pizza Hotline pick-up and delivery out of the back of the shops.
Currently, the Calgary location is a Cafe 22 restaurant, as is one of the Winnipeg locations. The new concept, Chan says, is a Pizza Hotline outlet with some seating for dining in.
“Our Winkler location will be the first dine-in Pizza Hotline,” he says. “We have about 1,500 square feet and are planning to have 30 to 40 seats. The arrangement gives us a little more flexibility in terms of leasing requirements.”
The executive adds that the majority of the future outlets will be dine-in operations. Chan reports that company is also adding to its menu with panini, salads and chicken fingers. Also new is “The Big Slice” – custom-made pizzas in the shape of a slice.
Pizza Hotline was a small, one-off establishment on Corydon Avenue in Winnipeg almost 20 years ago when Jerry Cianflone bought the business. Starting out as Colombo’s Pizza – a dine-in and take-out operation he bought from the parents of his girlfriend at the time – Cianflone developed the pizzeria into a take-out only location to streamline efficiency.
When Canadian Pizza Magazine first caught up with him in 1997, he explained that his strategy had been to grow the business slowly. At the time, he had seven outlets in Winnipeg.
“It took a while for me to become comfortable with the idea of franchising,” Cianflone said back at that time. It took two years to develop his growth plan then, along with an operation-specific training program for new franchisees.
Fast-forward to the spring of 2006, and Cianflone said he felt he was ready for more rapid expansion and brought Chan on board to advance that vision.
The new strategy is a return to the roots, so to speak, with the dine-in concept fuelling the growth plan.
In addition to marketing pizza from the physical locations, the company is also selling its products on the Internet (pizzahotline.ca). Chan claims that Pizza Hotline is the first pizza business in Manitoba selling online.
“We went online at the beginning of August,” he says. “We had 70 orders the first week and business online has been growing steadily since.”
Customers who log in, he explains, create a customized password and a profile including their address and pizza preferences.
“The orders are directed to our closest locations,” Chan says. “Customers can see all of our products and specials online so they know exactly what they are ordering.” The website is integrated with Pizza Hotline’s new computer system, Chan notes.
“Our new system is faster than the one we had before,” he says. “It processes orders more quickly and is more user-friendly. It keeps track of client data and what products are selling and which items are not selling. It has greatly increased our stores’ operating efficiency.”•
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