Pi Pizzeria has been wildly successful in a short amount of time. Chris Sommers and his partner, Frank Uible, opened their first location on “Pi Day” (3.14) 2008. By that October, then-Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama enjoyed some of their pizza after a St. Louis campaign rally. He loved it, and Pi, which was already very popular, became a sensation. Pi now has four locations and a mobile pizza truck, and they are opening in Washington, D.C. in a few months. Here’s an interesting exchange from Chris’s interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked about how important it is for restaurants to evolve…
Before we started the interview, you mentioned the phrase “Evolve or die.” It seems like a lot of restaurateurs fail to change with the times.
Yes, stagnating is only going to get you so far. It used to get you maybe twenty or thirty years with one business, but it’s not going to any more. People are just more informed, and their palates are more sophisticated. Their dollars are more stretched. You can’t get comfortable.
When I talk to some of my other restaurateur buddies – especially the successful ones – they tell me you have to have a healthy level of paranoia that you are not keeping up. It can be to your demise if you go overboard with it, but you have to keep thinking about innovation. Recognize what’s really important to you and don’t change things that continue to be winners, but at the same time, recognize and offer new things.
For instance, we have vegan options, and we have a vegan and gluten-free dessert. We have gluten-free beer. That kind of thing is just becoming more and more important. We know how hard it is to get five or six people who are going out to dinner to agree on pizza vs. something else. Then let’s say you have a vegan in the group, and another person with a gluten allergy. It doesn’t cost us much to be able to be inclusive of them. If you are inclusive, then those people with allergies, or people with religious limitations, or whatever else, are going to be your biggest champions.
So a lot of the new things we do are by listening to our customers directly, or anecdotally, or just keeping an ear open to what’s going on in the marketplace.
Chris had lots of other insightful things to say about the challenges of growth, having “green DNA,” and finding the right people to work for Pi. You’ll soon be able to read his entire interview…the book should be available by March.
The Schedulefly Crew