Take a Spin!

by Katie Lee

SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza is venturing from its Kansas City hometown to California with more than 40 planned new units over the next 10 years.

By Katie Lee, Editor

California, here they come: SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza, well known and loved throughout its hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, has headed west. Its sixth Kansas City-area location opened on November 4, 2013, and now SPIN! has set its sights on California. With one restaurant open in the city of Orange and the next two currently under construction in Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach, approximately 40 more are planned to follow.

For its westward expansion, SPIN! is partnering with seasoned franchisees to open more than 40 new restaurants over the next 10 years. Signal Hill, California-based Hofman Hospitality Group, owner of Hof’s Hut Restaurant & Bakery and Lucille’s Smokehouse Bar-B-Que chains, plans to open 37 units in Southern California, while Parker Hospitality Group has an agreement to open five restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.

SPIN Neapolitan Pizza ordering lobby“We have a pretty aggressive expansion plan right now,” says Ryan Hofman, director of facilities and construction at Hofman Hospitality Group. “We’re building, on average, two Lucille’s a year and now we’re going to try to do three SPIN!’s a year, all at the same time. I’m trying to get my department ramped up to be able to handle both facilities and construction — which can be tricky because every year, we add a couple more stores, all the stores get a year older, and I’m still just one guy.”

At some point, Hofman plans to hire a facility manager or district facility manager to help keep up with the growth. Or, he adds, Hofman Hospitality/SPIN! could take on a partnership with a facility management company.

Either way you slice it, the occasional growing pains are a good problem to have. And as young as SPIN! may be, like its franchisees it has veteran experience behind it. SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza is the brainchild of Gail and Richard Lozoff and Edwin Brownell, who launched SPIN! in 2005 after successfully starting Bagel & Bagel, also in Kansas City, which later became Einstein Bros. Bagels. Recently, SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza was named a “2013 Breakout Brand” by Nation’s Restaurant News.

SPIN Neapolitan Pizza hand tossed pizzaThe franchisor is very enthusiastic about the Kansas City-Hofman partnership. “SPIN’s California franchisees are experienced restaurateurs who share our commitment to quality product and experience,” says Gail Lozoff, co-owner.

Part of that commitment includes dedication to authentic Neapolitan-style pizza with a modern, health-conscious twist. Ingredients are artisan and fresh without the gourmet price; toppings are roasted each morning in a stone hearth oven; and the pizza dough, which can be ordered gluten-free, is made fresh daily. Some of SPIN!’s flour used in the dough is even imported from Italy.

Another unique aspect is SPIN!’s approach to service. “The hybrid service model combines traditional fast-casual ordering in the restaurant’s lobby with a full-service experience at the table,” says Lozoff. “This is appealing to diners who want to control the speed of their meal without sacrificing service — and helps differentiate our guests’ experience from virtually every other restaurant.”

Adds Lozoff: “We put a lot of effort into the ‘behind the curtain’ operations that give our guests that experience.”

A New ‘Spin’ on Maintenance

Behind that curtain is an experienced in-house repair and maintenance team, ready and able when the need arises. Yet at SPIN!, the shine is still on the penny. The young fleet of restaurants is still in great shape, only needing minor touch-up work and the occasional patch-and-paint job so far. The in-house team consists of four general maintenance technicians and two refrigeration specialists who handle most, but not all, of the R&M jobs.

SPINPIZZA CALI May 2013 BKeenePhoto 146“If it’s a major refrigeration issue and our techs can’t be there within the hour, then we have [the store managers] call a local vendor,” Hofman explains. “Our guys can’t handle everything, so we also have vendor relationships for every trade and a who-to-call list for emergencies.”

“When we need a new vendor, we talk to a lot of their customers and get their feedback,” Hofman continues. “The types of questions we ask are: ‘How reliable are they? How honest are they? How value-oriented are they?’ Those are our critical criteria.”

One of SPIN!’s goals, Hofman says, is to build a stronger in-house repair and maintenance team as the company grows, because the system is working well so far. “It’s proved to be more reliable in terms of response times, quality of work and value, really. We know that using the in-house maintenance team is more cost-effective than hiring someone else.”

Chilling Out

The trickiest operational and maintenance issue tackled so far has been the refrigeration system. The first stores use a direct-expansion refrigeration system that, according to Hofman, leads to Freon leaks and adjustment problems. In the more recent stores, SPIN! has switched to a chilled glycol system.

“It’s a refrigeration system that chills a glycol/water solution and pumps it to all the fixtures instead of running refrigeration lines to each fixture,” Hofman explains. “It runs at very low pressure, and it runs warmer than refrigerant so we don’t have icing up and defrost issues like you can with the other system. It’s a lot more reliable and energy-efficient.”

The chiller units have been custom made in the past, but Hofman is partnering with Trane to develop a chiller system specifically designed for the restaurant industry.

The company engineering the custom refrigeration fixtures are Anaheim, California-based Stone Cold Solutions. The custom units optimize the efficiency of each station. For example, refrigerated bowls from Stone Cold Solutions (no ice needed) hold salad toppings and keep them cold, so that salads can be made quickly and freshly. “It’s a very fast process,” Hofman says. “Our space is designed for speed.”

The fixtures also make use of normally wasted space. “Using these Stone Cold Solutions fixtures is much more efficient than using the tradition chiller systems, especially the exposed, open-air pan chillers that sit on top of equipment for toppings and dressings and things like that. That’s traditionally a very wasteful area [in the kitchen], and we’ve been able make it a lot more efficient.”

The SPIN! prototype for all company owned stores, designed by 360 Architecture of Kansas City, is 3,000 to 4,000 square feet. The restaurant that opened in November in Prairie Village, Kansas, is a 4,000-square-foot model that seats 110 guests inside and 48 outside on a heated patio. Anaheim, California-based Architects Design Consortium, Inc. (ADC), a full-service architectural firm specializing in restaurant and hospitality work, handles the architectural plans for SPIN!’s Southern California stores, using the prototype documents developed by 360. For interior design of the stores franchised by Hofman Hospitality Group, San Francisco-based Hatch is handling both SPIN! and Lucille’s locations.

Hofman and his team work closely with the architects designing their stores, and then he himself oversees construction. After all, who is going to be taking care of the stores after they’re built? “That’s something I feel should always be very close to each other: facilities and new construction,” Hofman says. “Because our policy is never try to make the same mistake twice. We go back to the last restaurant we built and right before we start designing the next one, we ask, ‘How can we improve this, for our operations and maintenance team, for the next one?’ It has really paid off.”

[NOTE: This article originally appeared as the cover story of the December 2013/January 2014 issue of Restaurant Facility Business magazine. Email the editor at [email protected].]

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