Countless fast-casual pizza chains are known more for their gimmicks and marketing campaigns than their pizza. That’s not how Flippers Pizzeria has grown throughout central Florida. Instead of relying on flashy messages, the concept has grown to 11 locations throughout the Sunshine State by refusing to compromise on the quality of its ingredients.
“Our product is what separates us because it is the taste that differentiates us,” says Scott Kousaie, co-president and founding partner. “Nobody is going to convince me that using tomato paste and adding water and sugar is better than using fresh-packed tomatoes, fresh basil and extra virgin olive oil. We talk about our product often, and we back it up with a continued focus on quality ingredients and operations.”
Kousaie and Ben Richardson, vice president of operations, started Flippers Pizzeria with another partner in 1987 after graduating from college. The young entrepreneurs soon realized the importance of using fresh ingredients, backed by an efficient operation while still offering a variety of products. To help facilitate this, they opened their own commissary to support the growth of the concept.
Flippers Pizzeria grew to four locations by 1995 and hired an executive chef to further distinguish the restaurant’s menu from the competition. Flippers Pizzeria offers customers the choice of dine-in, carry out or delivery
“We’re not a one-trick pony when it comes to serving our customers,” Kousaie says. “We compete with Dominos and Papa John’s on the delivery side, but we also bring people into our restaurants for a great to-go and dine-in experience.”
Flippers Pizzeria’s commitment to quality ingredients is just one way the company is supporting its growth.
“Our upcoming menu features an authentic Margherita pizza with DOP-certified San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil,” Kousaie says. “Products like these continue to separate us from the big chains who focus primarily cost issues and pricing constraints.
“Even as we grow, we will not hesitate to improve products and ingredients that speak to our integrity as a concept,” he adds. “It will continue to separate us from other players within the market.”
Its commissary allows Flippers Pizzeria to control the quality of its ingredients and overhead costs of inventory. “By bringing in things direct, we’re able to buy as a huge company would, buying in bulk and directly from the source as often as we can,” Kousaie says.
Kousaie and Todd Dennis, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, have their sights set on a strong regional presence. Three years ago, the partners brought in Don Howard, current president of franchise development, to prepare for a widespread growth of the Flippers Pizzeria concept.
Next, the company hired Chute Gerdeman – an award-winning brand and design firm – to develop a signature look for all new Flippers Pizzeria stores. The new image combines an inviting atmosphere with modern colors, coupled with a layout that highlights the open kitchen and the brick ovens that make Flippers’ pizzas taste so good.
As a result, between 2008 and 2011, the company has grown to 11 locations – nine corporate and two franchises – in central Florida. However, Flippers Pizzeria is not going to rush its growth by awarding franchise opportunities to anyone and everyone who applies.
“Right now, we’re interested in making sure current franchisees within close range of our corporate stores become successful,” Kousaie says.
“Executing and maintaining high standards through growth requires a great team,” adds Ben Richardson, vice president of operations. “Setting high expectations is easy; training our team members how to achieve them is where our effort goes to ensure the continued success of the concept.”
Flippers Pizzeria also offers management training for new and existing employees. “We’re bringing in people with experience and great leadership abilities to move to the next level,” Richardson says. “As we continue to grow our biggest challenge revolves around creating and maintaining a culture of excellence at all levels.”