Movers and shakers
By karly o’brienFeatures Trends
Meet a pizza farm and trailer, a place where quick serve meets full serve, an assembly line style
Canadian Pizza set out to find pizzerias that are doing something unique
in terms of their service and how they operate their business.
Canadian Pizza set out to find pizzerias that are doing something unique in terms of their service and how they operate their business. We dug up some interesting concepts that are showcasing something outside the box. Let’s take a look at who’s been moving and shaking up the industry in Canada.
|This is the open-concept pizza trailer that Flatbread Farms uses to interact with customers and provide full transparency. |
It’s a business that’s been 10 years in the making for Grant Johnson.
After spending two years in Italy as a photographer, Johnson found his passion cooking pizza and creating the perfect thin-crust dough. Over time, he worked at it to create a viable business plan that included buying a farm where he grows organic fruits, vegetables and herbs, and then investing in an open-concept pizza trailer featuring his own hand-made wood-fired pizza oven.
About five years ago, he had enough capital to buy his “pizza” farm located in the Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, which is a rural area known famously around the world for its wine and grapes.
“We’re still getting up to speed, and it’s taken time to rework the land, find out what products we can start growing, and then get a custom-built kitchen made,” says Johnson, who as the owner of Flatbread Farms.
The farm grows many varieties of garlic and tomatoes, many types of herbs, peaches, mixed fruit, corn, melons and peppers, to name a few offerings. Since Johnson has the capability of growing fruit, he’s decided to incorporate it into some untraditional pies. One of his favourites features and a customer favourite contains peach, apricot and pork.
Since he cannot dedicate all of his time to the farm, Johnson says it’s impossible for him to grow all of his ingredients. Until he gets more help, he will continue to source from other local organic farmers. His time away from the farm is dedicated to catering, and to attending events and farmers markets with his pizza trailer.
“This is actually our first year that we’ve had our pizza trailer out there full time. Before we would only show up occasionally. We’re moving slow, but we’re finding the reception of our pizza is going great.” The trailer usually stays pretty close to home, venturing only to the Okanagan on a regular basis, but it occasionally attends highly populated events across the province.
After hearing people from the U.S., Ontario, and Nova Scotia ask if there is a frozen pizza line, Johnson is now considering it, as it will generate more revenue in the winter season when there are fewer tourists. “I’m figuring out how to preserve freshness, taste, and keep it frozen while delivering, and when we do figure that out, Whole Foods has expressed interest in
In the future, Johnson says, there is a chance that the business will become franchised, as people across the country have also expressed an interest in selling Flatbread Farms’ pizza in their area. For now, that’s on the backburner.
|Jason Allard (left), chief operating officer; Justin Lussier (middle), CEO; and Christian Bullock, chief business development officer, have a laugh in one of Famoso’s Edmonton locations. |
Photo credit: Famoso
Famoso is one of the fastest growing pizzerias in the Canadian industry with a unique twist: it offers both full and quick service.
“Many people are confused about how it operates since we cater to those who want to get in and get out, and to those who have time to spare and want to have the full restaurant experience,” explains Justin Lussier, CEO and co-founder of Famoso.
On the company website (www.famoso.ca) there is a section titled How it Works, which describes Famoso’s operations for customers. Customers choose a table with a menu and then order at the counter. From there they can either start a tab or pay at the counter, and the meals will be served at their table. If customers choose to stay, then full service begins.
Since opening six years ago in Edmonton, Famoso has expanded to roughly 20 locations across Canada and 10 set to open within the next year. The company maintains its image across all of its locations by doing things properly the first time by providing thorough training
“For instance, we send all of our franchisees to Naples for a week to learn how to properly create Neapolitan-style pizza,” says Lussier. He and his partners want to dedicate the needed time to creating a brand that will stick across all of their locations.
It all started in 2005, when Lussier went on a trip with his girlfriend, now wife, across Europe. The couple started eating pizza since it was the cheapest yet most delicious item they could find. When they stumbled upon authentic Neapolitan pizza in Italy, the two found it the most addictive.
“Once I tried the pizza in Naples I was hooked,” says Lussier in describing his experience. “I immediately wanted to open up a pizzeria and make this same quality back home.” Shortly afterward, he found a payphone to call his friends and future partners to tell them about the idea. They were hooked too.
The Famoso team, which consists of Lussier, chief operating officer Jason Allard, and chief business development officer Christian Bullock, trained with the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (AVPN) to learn firsthand what the standards were.
To adhere to those standards, the pizzeria must use double zero flour from Italy, tomatoes from the Naples region (uncooked) and bocconcini mozzarella balls. Some other requirements include that the crust has to be hand-stretched, credit-card thin, thick in the middle, cooked within 60 to 90 seconds, and at 800 to 900 F, in a wood-fired oven.
Over the years, the Famoso boys also have developed a section of their menu called New World Pizza that accounts for one-third of their menu. Lussier points out one pie in particular that is the most popular in the section.
“We have one pizza that has Brussels sprouts, dates, Gorgonzola, honey, and walnuts on it,” he begins. “It sounds weird, but people love it and always come back to have it again.”
|Standing in front of the PizzaWorks storefront in Toronto, from left to right, is Laurence Rose, founder and owner; Howard Rose, chief financial officer; and Jackson Combs, operations manager and chef.|
Photo credit: PizzaWorks
PizzaWorks has taken the popular assembly-line concept from the U.S. and brought it to Canada.
“We believe this is the only place a personalized pizza made-to-order exists in Canada, and we are so excited about that,” says Laurence Rose, the founder of
The business opened its doors to the Toronto market around mid-July after two years of research and development on the name, product and concept.
Rose told Canadian Pizza that he was disappointed with the current offerings in the industry, and felt that nothing matched the same quality, speed and customization that he was imagining. That is, until he took a look at the U.S. market.
“I found out there was a large movement in this area, but in Canada there was nothing like it,” he says. “I thought it would be a great adventure to be at the helm of something new.”
After determining the concept he wanted to build on, Rose and Jackson Combs, who is the head of operations and general manager, worked on the product. Among other innovations, they had a chef specializing in flour design the organic dough that is used to make their pies, which later slide into the pizzeria’s impingement oven.
Aside from its traditional offerings, PizzaWorks wants to expand further into unique pizza offerings after stumbling upon the Pizza Salad Sandwich.
“It came while doing our R&D actually,” says the passionate owner. “After we put the salad on it, it became natural to fold it over and slice it.” There are three different salads to choose from: Cesar, Greek, and house. From there, the customer can choose any other toppings he/she wants.
To accommodate the varying amount of toppings per customer, Rose and Combs made sure the crust was thin, but not so thin that the middle of the pizza would collapse with too many toppings.
So far PizzaWorks has one location, which is used as a pilot project to test new ideas and to build up the concept. Once they do, these newcomers have no intention of franchising. “We want to have control of the restaurant experience, and the menu, and product offerings, as well as expansion,” he adds. “I think that’s a major problem with bigger pizzerias, and we don’t want to make that same mistake.”
|Kory Klein, owner and operator of Whistler Wood Fired Pizza, sits with his wife, Tess, and 10-year-old daughter, Talula. Photo credit: Whistler Wood Fired Pizza|
Whistler Wood Fired Pizza
Three years ago Kory Klein opened his pizzeria as a food trailer in Whistler, B.C., but his love for pizza began after making a pizza for the first time when he was 12.
“I have always had a love for pizza, and it has been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.” Klein initially had a full-time job, and because he didn’t want to put any financial stress on his family, he kept it while doing gigs on the side to raise money for his wood-fired pizza oven and later for his trailer.
After a couple of years, he raised enough money; however, he still kept his full-time job while attending farmers markets to sell his pizzas to eager customers.
Now his whole family is involved, which means Talula, his 10-year-old daughter, and Tess, his wife. “My daughter started cooking pizza when she was eight, so she’s got me beat,” jokes the Windsor, Ont., native.
On most days his family stays in the Whistler region, but he is also known for travelling the sea-to-sky highway that is 409 kilometres long and goes from the mountains to the sea. However, upon request he rolled down to Palm Springs to cater a wedding. “I don’t limit my business, we will literally go the distance for our customers,” says Klein, who mentions he is a fan of thin crust and hates the idea of gourmet pizza.
The Klein family is excited about their “tripped out” new food trailer. “The engine, the weight that it can hold – this baby is made to last, and is just tripped out.”
Pizza is a great food to get mobile, and doing so gives operators the chance to open up their customer base to beyond their
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