Will Persona Neapolitan’s Food-First Focus Foster a Flourishing Franchise?
After announcing its rapid plans for expansion, fast-casual pizza restaurant Persona Neapolitan looks to take its growth to the next level through franchising. With plans for 250 new locations in the next five years, this aggressive strategy is fueled by one key focus—high quality food. This food-first mentality was instilled into co-founder Glenn Cybulski from an early age, and came to fruition during his studies in Italy.
As Cybulski now looks to take his fast-casual restaurant—which serves wood-fired pizzas in 90 seconds—nationwide, Franchise Times Magazine (FT) had a chance to speak with Mr. Cybulski about his life and franchise. We share with you the important aspects of the interview.
Franchise Times Interview with Glenn Cybulski
FT: Tell me about attending the Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli, the oldest pizza school in the world, I understand, and a pizzaioli or pizza maker is an actual certification.
Cybulski: It’s a huge deal in Italy. It’s getting more and more recognized here in the States. Especially, to be certified is a pretty big deal, because it also means you’ve been schooled in all the technical aspects. Understanding what double-zero flour is, understanding how yeast reacts in certain combinations makes all the difference in quality.
If you do it right somebody may not know why it tastes so great, the technical aspects, but they do know it tastes phenomenal. When people know that, it makes a huge difference in how people connect with you through food.
FT: You’ve opened Persona Neapolitan Pizzeria, and have begun franchising the choose-your-own-ingredients chain. Tell me about it.
Cybulski: A big influence in my career was Tony Gemignani. Tony is regarded as one of the best pizzaiolis in the world, and we competed together, in the Naples 2007 competition in Italy, where he won best in the world. Through that and his connections to the school, I was brought on as a World Pizza Champion team member. I was giving a speech on, “So you want to open a pizzeria?” with a friend of mine, because we know the ins and outs. I’ve had my failures, I’ve had my successes. Joseph Baumel, my business partner now, was in the audience, looking for a professional that knew what they were doing.
He came up to my restaurant, tried the pizza, and said, ‘You have to partner with me.’ I said, ‘I’m willing to do that if you’re willing to go big with this.’ This segment is the biggest thing to happen since take-and-bake pizza. The rest is history.
FT: There’s a lot of competition—Blaze, PizzaRev, Pieology, Pie Five. What’s your claim to fame?
Cybulski: It’s based on high-quality, truly Neapolitan pizza. That’s what differentiates us from all the rest that have started the choose-your-own-ingredients restaurants. We’ve taken that extra step to make sure the quality is there, and bring the public a truly fast-fired pizza, 90 seconds rather than five minutes.
FT: I can see why consumers would care about the speed, but do they really care about quality to that degree?
Cybulski: They might not know the science, but they taste that difference, hands down. We’ve literally had new franchisees signing up who are blown away. We had some guys in from South Carolina, and they said ‘if your food is better than others, we’re going to go with you.’ I try to stay humble on this, but my pizza is phenomenal and I know this.
FT: Everybody is scrambling for share in this market.
Cybulski: What’s going to happen, unfortunately, is after the hype of people being able to pick out their ingredients has died down, what it will come down to is quality and guest retention.
FT: You started franchising after opening only one store, which many people say is a no-no.
Cybulski: We already knew, and again I don’t want to sound arrogant at all, but we knew this concept was going to be big. We knew this was going to change the way people thought about pizza.
We’re not going to put everybody out of business, we don’t want to. We just want to be a runaway smash hit. We didn’t think it was necessary to take the long road and invest $5 million into corporate stores and wait two years. In a sense this is a footrace. The excitement is going to be short-lived in some of the other concepts. You’re already seeing some fall off.
FT: How many franchises have you sold so far?
Cybulski: We’ve awarded 20 so far in Florida, with Sager. We’re about to award double-digits in Chicago and high single-digits in South Carolina.
Persona Neapolitan’s Move to Franchising
Persona Neapolitan Pizzeria engaged Francorp to develop their franchise program and help them build a strong foundation for their franchise expansion. Francorp is the world’s leading franchise development firm with offices worldwide and has helped over 2,000 companies expand through franchising in over 38 years.
With Persona Neapolitan expanding throughout the US, customers will be able to experience the 90-second pizza soon enough. If you want to help drive the expansion while improving your own financial situation, we welcome you to learn more about franchising a Persona Neapolitan on their website.