How’d you start Slice Factory?
My family history is one of those classic coming-to-America stories. My father immigrated from Italy in the ‘70s and worked all kinds of jobs. My grandmother was in the restaurant business, and that’s where my parents got started. In the early ‘90s, we moved to Italy, then came back to Chicago in ‘98 and got the first pizza restaurant started.
I literally grew up in the business. From a young age, I was always getting in the way and helping out. That allowed me to really learn the ins and outs of the business. I love being with people and the business. Over time I got really good at it.
Fast forward about 2012, we had three restaurants at the time. My dad’s dream was to franchise and have a national brand. So I started doing research.
I knew right away that in order to franchise, I needed to have a concept, so I rebranded the restaurants into Slice Factory. I also trimmed down the menu and operation to minimize all the inconsistencies so we could streamline. We started franchising in 2017.
We started at three and now we’re at 13, with eight corporate stores and five franchises. We’re really focused on bringing in more franchisees right now.
You’ve been at this for 25 years. What’s worked and what’s been hard?
I’m going to choose to look at the last three years because I’ve never had anything like that. We’ve always had a supply of products and we had to adapt quick. I had to relearn everything when it came to sourcing things. We had to forecast how much product we needed for three to six months, which we’ve never had to do before because we weren’t sure when we could get them.
I’m really glad we’d already shifted digitally because we didn’t have to adapt nearly as much as other restaurants. The restaurant space was already shifting digitally, just slowly. We were, thankfully, already there when COVID started and just had to adapt a bit.
I was born and raised in Chicago. It’s where my parents’ first business was. To me, we had a stake in the ground here already. There are a lot of mom-and-pop pizza places, and Chicago’s pizza market is pretty competitive. But to me, if you’ve got a good product, you can be successful anywhere. And so far, we’ve been successful.
One thing that really worked is our slice-thru. Customers can order jumbo slices, wings, salads, and whole pizzas at our slice-thru. It was really a no-brainer. Convenience was a real bonus for us during COVID and after. We were already in a hybrid space between traditional pizza and QSR.
We still offer non-slice-thru locations for franchisees. We know that some places just aren’t compatible with a drive-thru model. No way a franchisee can have a drive-thru in downtown Chicago. It’s just not realistic.
What’s your go-to pizza?
Every Friday for us is pizza night in my family. I bring home an extra-large with sausage one side and mushrooms on the other.