Patxi's Pizza Puts Quality First as it Grows
Since day one, product quality has been the main focus at Patxi’s Pizza. That tradition won’t change as the San Francisco-based deep-dish pizzeria enters a fresh phase of growth under new ownership.
Elite Restaurant Group, which operates Slater’s 50/50 and Mediterranean-inspired fast casual Daphne’s, purchased Patxi’s last September. Elite’s leadership is expanding Patxi’s menu without sacrificing the quality guests have come to expect. But top-notch food comes with a price, says Ernie Romo, director of operations for Elite Restaurant Group. And educating customers has become goal No. 1 in the refresh.
Romo doesn’t want guests to get sticker shock at the end of their meals, where a deep-dish pizza can cost between $25–35. So Patxi’s is trying to build in value where it makes sense. This means adding weekly promotions, like date night dinners for two, where a pair can split a pizza and a bottle of wine for an affordable flat rate. Or dessert pizza night, which highlights Patxi’s first dessert offerings in its 15-year history.
With these new promotions, the chain is trying to attract new customers, reengage lapsed users, and inspire repeat visits from loyal guests, Romo said. Patxi’s is also working on a mobile app and loyalty program that can offer another outlet for incentives.
An expanded lunch offering is increasing traffic, too. Before this latest menu launch about two months ago, Patxi’s mid-day offerings consisted mostly of pizza. Customers just didn’t have the time to dine at Patxi’s for a pizza that had a 45-minute ticket time. Slowly, Patxi’s made changes to accommodate guests who needed to get out the door quicker, Romo says.
Along with a slice program, the new lunch menu includes a lineup of sandwiches, including a chicken pesto melt and a meatball sub, and soups.
“A classic chicken noodle and minestrone aligns with what we're looking for and allows us to do things like lunch specials for a good value,” Romo says.
Patxi’s pizza menu has some new additions as well, including a Chicken Tikka Masala option and the aforementioned dessert pizzas, which include Roasted Caramel Apple Pizza—Patxi’s thin crust pizza topped with caramel apples, cinnamon, cream cheese and caramel drizzle—and S’mores pizza. Shareable appetizers, like the Spicy Sausage Rolls, were also added.
“I wouldn't call it as much of an overhaul as more of an addition to make it even better than it already was,” Romo says.
Cross-utilization of ingredients lets Patxi’s offer an expanded lunch menu and new offerings without putting too much strain on the kitchen, Romo says. The team had a slight learning curve when it came to integrating sandwich making, but since launch, the transition has smoothed over.
“We've been recalibrating and retraining to have a different focus and be ready to crank out a high-quality focaccia bread sandwich at a strong ticket time during lunch,” Romo says.
Patxi's San Francisco area director, Will Morthole, says the menu changes are ones that guests have been asking for. And Patxi's is just scratching the surface when it comes to the lunch daypart. Traffic is already picking up, and Morthole thinks it will continue to increase as faster ticket times become a part of the operational norm.
He also believes the lunch menu will attract new customers to the catering part of Patxi’s business.
“In an office maybe they're only going to order pizza once a month,” Morthole says. “But now that we have different catering options with sandwiches, soups, and some different appetizers, I think we can open ourselves up to a lot more catering opportunities.”
Even though Patxi’s is a full-service brand, the pizza chain has a strong hold on delivery across its 17 restaurants in California, Colorado, and Washington. The means are constantly evolving, however.
Patxi’s started out with in-house delivery before bringing on third-party partners. Now, the company is starting to transition back to in-house service, adding more drivers to the team.
But that strategy doesn’t work in every market, Romo says. Patxi’s is working out how to service every store properly. In San Francisco, for instance, customers are willing to pay delivery fees for the convenience.
“But in some of our other regions, like Colorado where it’s a little more spread out, we've been able to deliver ourselves and be our own delivery teams, and take control of the hospitality experience,” Romo says.
The brand is trying to balance speed and cost without losing control of the customer experience. Relying on someone who isn’t a part of the company’s culture is a risky proposition. “You're gambling with the fall through of the promise in ensuring that guests are getting the quality that they're used to after 15 years of understanding what a Patxi’s pizza is all about,” Romo says.
That control exists in Colorado, but hasn’t quite fit into the San Francisco market yet.
And the solution isn’t an easy one. Recruiting qualified drivers to join the Patxi’s team exclusively is a challenge, Romo says. Drivers who work with other delivery services can be their own boss and fill up their schedules with whatever orders they choose.
In order to make the new driver positions cost effective, Romo says, the company will cross-train employees. Drivers will handle kitchen prep and expediting orders to make sure they get out on time. This strategy is working across the Colorado market, and Romo believes it will help as the brand expands.
“I think the answer to the delivery question depends on where you're at regionally,” Morthole says. “If you have a third-party delivery company that can supplement your delivery drivers to help you not have 10 delivery drivers on your schedule on a Friday night when you're doing the most amount of delivery, that’s great. Or if you have five cross-trained people and you can supplement that with using a third-party platform on a higher-density population area. I think that's the answer.”
Patxi’s is being careful when it comes to expansion. All restaurants are company-owned and that strategy will continue in the near future. For now, franchising is off the table, Romo says.
San Diego is the next area of focus for growing Patxi’s. Over the next few months, two locations will open in Chula Vista with a third following in Hillcrest. Romo sees a lot of potential for development in Southern California.
“We want to make sure that we have a model that's refined with some of our goals that we're trying to achieve—building catering, building sales and check averages, getting the guests to a better overall experience—are being met,” he says.
Every market is in play. Given that Elite’s other restaurants brands have a strong foothold in Texas, it’s a safe bet that could be the next major area of development for Patxi’s.
“I definitely believe there's value to continue to grow where we already exist and where there are roots to make our presence more firm and increase some awareness,” Romo says. “I think Texas is a no brainer for the hospitality industry.”