Caliente Pizza & Draft House — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Nick dishes on Caliente’s growth and expansion plans
Our concept is a full-service restaurant and bar with a full delivery area. Our pizza philosophy is that we just really love pizza — and it shows in every facet of our business. When you truly love what you do it all comes natural.
We have great pizza, but everyone always says that. The real truth is the thing that we do have that not everyone has is great people. We care about our people before they care about us, and in return we have developed a team of great employees. By having a great team and caring and treating and communicating with our employees, we have been able to rapidly grow. Our growth plan is to grow internally with company stores and then reward the employees that have helped us build the company with their own franchise stores.
The three keys to expanding our business, in order, are people, standardization and cash flow. Without great people, as mentioned above, nothing else matters. As we grow it is more and more critical that a customer gets the same experience at any of our stores. We have standardized everything from uniforms to pizzas to how we clean our restaurants. Lots of these projects are not overnight projects and require the help of our team members in the form of feedback and even as far as taking pictures of all our products. We tackle big projects together. It took us a year to make a standardized book on how to make every food item. We now hang pictures of food charts on our walls at the stores to illustrate how to make each item.
We promote the philosophy, “how does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” We do a little bit every day on big projects. Cash flow is important in not biting off more than you can chew. Working with our vendors and banks has been important.
Because we are full service, delivery and we have full bars, we split the restaurant’s marketing into three groups. We use direct mail to promote our delivery areas, with heavy weekly mailings every week of the year. We market the full service restaurant through social media, staying up on the current trends. As far as the bar goes we market it through having great beer-focused events throughout each month. For the most part we market each store the same. Because I do all the marketing myself with no outside help, I do benefit in keeping a lot of the marketing the same. We do put a great deal of focus on branding, as well, and that is where the International Pizza Challenge wins come into play.
We are pizza people first and foremost. But with that being said we have built our brand into one of the top craft beer destinations in Pittsburgh. We have 24 taps at each location and focus on hard-to-source beer from across the country and around the world. We also put a heavy focus on local beer. We do events at each location six times a month and we use a heavy dose of social media to promote it. We also have gotten entrenched in the local craft beer scene through the use of craft beer weeks, beer events outside our walls and we have collaborated with local breweries on nine beers. Learning the beer industry has been a very fun thing for us. Because in our industry we love using the freshest ingredients and letting our passion guide us — and the craft brewers do the same thing in their industry. It really is a great marriage –– pizza and beer.