By Julie Fitz-Gerald
By Julie Fitz-Gerald
The long list of reasons that have made Two Guys and a Pizza Place a
hometown staple are all intertwined with one common thread: owner Cory
Medd’s high attention to detail. You would be hard-pressed to find a
single aspect of Medd’s bustling pizzeria in Lethbridge, Alta., that
hasn’t been reviewed and analyzed to ensure that it fits perfectly with
his vision for the business.
The long list of reasons that have made Two Guys and a Pizza Place a hometown staple are all intertwined with one common thread: owner Cory Medd’s high attention to detail. You would be hard-pressed to find a single aspect of Medd’s bustling pizzeria in Lethbridge, Alta., that hasn’t been reviewed and analyzed to ensure that it fits perfectly with his vision for the business.
|Above: Cory Medd took a brazen leap into the pizzeria industry and hasn’t looked back.|
Like a proud patriarch, Medd is quick to attribute success to his staff, who share his care and attention to the business.
“I have great staff and I really try to treat them well so that they treat our customers well. I have some longtime staff here that have a sense of ownership and they’re great. I’ve got guys that have been here for four, six and eight years. My staff is so important to this place and to me. They’re well educated and I think they are fantastic. They make me better than my competitors,” he gushes.
After coming across a belly-up pizza place in 2002, Medd and his good friend Scott Brennan began brainstorming a business idea, as adventurous men in their early 20s often do. Their only experience with pizza was Brennan’s past job at a Pizza Hut. With Medd’s background in business and marketing and Brennan’s basic pizza-making skills, the pair took a huge leap of faith.
“We just stumbled upon it and ran with it. We got lucky I guess,” Medd says, laughing at just how big a leap it really was. “I had just turned 23; I was young and foolish for sure! There was definitely a learning curve at the start, but we knew we wanted to make good pizza and we thought it would work. We felt pretty confident.”
A year and half after opening their doors, Brennan went on to pursue film school in Vancouver, while Medd bought his share of the business and forged ahead. Sales began to pick up and Medd realized that his vision for the pizzeria was actually going to work.
Nine years later, Medd can safely celebrate his brazen leap of faith into the pizza industry. In 2008, he was named Chef of the Year by Canadian Pizza magazine. He has competed in Las Vegas at the International Pizza Challenge (IPC) with pizzaiolos from around the world, earning strong finishes over the last three years. Back at home, his sales have grown consistently from 2002 to 2009, allowing him to reach a high level of success that he has since maintained.
Medd’s concept for the business was lofty for a 23-year-old, but not out of the realm of possibility.
“I don’t think I ever dreamed of being a franchise or being the biggest pizza chain in the world, but we wanted to be busy and we wanted to be the best in town and the best in Alberta,” he says.
Being named the top pizza chef in Canada surpassed Medd’s goal altogether. Loyal regulars and lovers of The Roadhouse, the recipe that garnered him the honour from Canadian Pizza, would agree. The Roadhouse is smothered in a ranch base and topped with chicken, bacon, red peppers, mozzarella and cheddar. Three years later, this winning pizza is now one of the simpler selections of pie offered at Two Guys and a Pizza Place.
Medd stays competitive by overhauling his menu every two to three years, exchanging half a dozen slow-selling pizzas with six to eight new creations inspired by current trends in the industry.
“New pizzas are based on trends that I’m seeing at the International Pizza Challenge, on the Food Network or from research that I’ve done on the Internet.”
New additions to the menu stay true to Medd’s formula for great-tasting pizza.
“When we first got into this we said we wanted to do everything better; that was our goal. We make our own dough daily and none of our products or ingredients are based on price, they’re all based on quality and taste. We try not to cut corners ever,” Medd says, going on to note, “I constantly ask GFS [Gordon Food Service Canada] who else is using these products and I try to find unique products that are not being used by other pizza places.”
“Old –school” best describes his kitchen. Dough is mixed in a 70-year-old Hobart mixer and then left to rise for two to three hours before it is hand cut each day. The old Bakers Pride brick oven burns at 550 F and requires a staff member manning it at all times.
“Our smaller pizzas take eight to 10 minutes to cook and our bigger ones take 14 minutes, so it’s pretty old school and, I would say, slow in our industry. But I like the fact that we have a guy manning the ovens at all times, keeping an eye on every pizza. I’m allowed a little more creativity on my menu because of that,” Medd says.
One thing on the contemporary side is Medd’s POS system that he picked up in Las Vegas at the International Pizza Expo. It allows him to analyze sales to determine the number of repeat customers the pizzeria has, how many times they are ordering and what particular slices are selling on a given day.
“I’m constantly researching and looking to see how things are going and analyzing our sales and our customers’ views. Now that I have such great staff I can work more on the business than in the business and it’s nice to be able to constantly do research on your own business to stay on top of what’s going on.”
If sales are slow for any period of time, Medd quickly jumps into action, implementing his marketing and advertising skills. Past promotions include handing out free pizza at various events that he sponsors, making gift card donations and putting coupons in event programs rather than a simple ad. “That way I can get the customer into our door and serve them pizza. Feeding customers and word of mouth is my first priority,” he says.
Sponsoring local teams and events is also important to Medd as a simple act of reciprocating kindness to his community. “I’ve always believed in the old saying ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Why not help out people and give back to the community that has given so much to me. Our sales have grown from 2002 to 2009 and now we’re just maintaining and I can’t forget who got me to this point. Really I just feel good about it.”
The future looks bright for Medd and his pizzeria, with expansion plans in the works. In early June, Medd bought a mobile pizza kitchen that he will use as a test kitchen where he can try new ideas and offer new toppings, all the while gathering customer feedback. As for his current digs, he is open to possibilities.
“The trailer is definitely immediate and will be great. It will probably lead to bigger and better things. As far as this store here, I think the next step in the next five years would be a bigger, better location or perhaps two locations.”
Medd’s excitement about the future is evident as he talks about an upcoming menu change to celebrate Two Guys’ 10-year anniversary in May 2012 and his ideas for next year’s IPC in Las Vegas. “My next idea will be revolutionary to the pizza industry. I’m going to leave it at that.”