Media Center

Apr 10, 2014

TurboChef Named 2014 Kitchen Innovation Award Recipients

TurboChef is proud to announce that the TurboChef Fire pizza oven has been selected as a recipient of the 2014 Kitchen Innovation Award, which is presented by the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel and Motel Show.

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Oct 09, 2013 , The Journal Gazette

Coliseum expands its culinary offerings

The Slice’d pizza and sandwich area at Memorial Coliseum will be open along with other new food options including pies that can cook in 2 minutes 20 seconds.

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Jan 07, 2013 , Press Release

TurboChef to Debut the High h Conveyor 2620

TurboChef Technologies will debut its new High h Conveyor 2620 oven at the 2013 NAFEM show in Orlando February 7-9.

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Jan 02, 2013 , CSP Daily News

Foodservice Engine - Supply chain efficiencies driving 7-Eleven's M&A activity?

While Helen of Troy may have been responsible for the launching of one historic offensive, a hot mini taco may have launched convenience retail's equivalent. With higher food sales a core directive for 7-Eleven, building the most efficient foodservice operation has been paramount for the chain--a formula that calls out for more stores in higher concentrations.

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Oct 05, 2012 , Press Release

TurboChef Encore Rapid-cook Oven Voted Winner in the CSP Retailer Contest

TurboChef announced that the Encore rapid-cook oven has been voted winner of the 2012 CSP Retailer Choice Best New Product Contest in the Foodservice category. This award is sponsored by Convenience Store Petroleum (CSP) Magazine.

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Oct 19, 2011 , The Dallas Morning News

Pizza Inn hopes new Pie Five brand speeds sales growth

By KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS

Staff Writer

krobinson@dallasnews.com

FORT WORTH — As fresh-faced college kids and white-collar office workers queued up for personalized pizzas at Pie Five Pizza Co., Kristina Karganova wrinkled her brow and pondered.

No, the University of North Texas student has never been to Pizza Inn, which began making pies when Dwight Eisenhower was president. But she thinks she’s heard of it.

She likes Pie Five, the trendy new restaurant, because “you can get what you want and the crust is really good.”

Like many other diners, Karganova, 22, did not know that the ground-floor addition to Montgomery Plaza was the latest flavor from Pizza Inn Holdings Inc.

Pie Five offers 9-inch pizzas, served in five minutes or less, with no limit on the number of upscale toppings.

It’s how Pizza Inn corporate, which has survived slumping sales and store closures, plans to grow. Three Pie Five locations are set to open before year’s end in Las Colinas, Dallas and Fort Worth.

Pie Five will face competition in the speedy pizza space from a Tulsa-based company with big growth plans for Big D. And it will have to grow without stepping on the toes of the existing Pizza Inn franchisees.

But restaurant industry observers say Pie Five can help bring new vigor to a middle-age parent.

“This is an opportunity for Pizza Inn to find the fountain of youth,” said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a research firm in Chicago. “They understand this market, with 50-plus years of experience. It’s still around. It’s a survivor.”

Pizza pioneer

Launched in 1958 — the same year as market leader Pizza Hut — Pizza Inn gained popularity as a gathering point for victorious soccer teams, birthday party guests and value-seeking families drawn to its pizza buffet.

The chain had up to 749 U.S. restaurants in 1979 and sales of up to $303 million in 1986, according to Technomic.

But management changes, a bankruptcy and shifting consumer tastes took a toll.

U.S. locations now number 217, including five company-owned stores. Sales from all U.S. franchised and corporate stores came to $116.8 million for the fiscal year that ended in June, according to a regulatory filing.

Charlie Morrison, 43, has been chief executive of Pizza Inn since 2007. During his tenure, sales have improved, due in part to a new prototype for Pizza Inn that’s helped update the look of the chain.

Since June, when the first Pie Five opened, the company’s stock has gained nearly 90 percent. It closed Wednesday at $4.24, down from a 52-week high of $4.40 earlier in the day.

“The challenges of the past are simply that: the challenges of the past,” Morrison said as Pie Five workers crafted Frisbee-size pizzas topped with kalamata olives and feta cheese. “Look at the growth story we have now.

“We have a lot of good news at Pizza Inn to continue to celebrate. [And] we think Pie Five is going to be a great addition as a portfolio brand to grow the entire company.”

Familiar ingredients

Pie Five takes the heart of the Pizza Inn menu — same crust, sauce and cheese blend — and transfers it to an industrial chic setting with exposed ductwork, an elaborate wall mural and polished concrete floors.

Thanks to a super-fast oven from Carrollton-based TurboChef, pizzas cook in about two minutes. Each pie costs $6.49.

While Pie Five was still in the planning stages, Tulsa-based restaurant marketing exec Lori Walderich and her husband, Jeff, were launching Top That Pizza.

Using the same TurboChef oven, Top That workers create personalized 10-inch pizzas in less than 5 minutes for $6.99.

The first location opened in Tulsa in October 2010. Now the chain has contracts with franchisees to open 100 more, according to David Rutkauskas. He’s the founder of Tulsa-based Beautiful Brands International, which is handling franchising for Top That.

Both Top That and Pie Five have a Subway-like work flow: replace sandwich buns with pizza dough and let the consumer dictate the rest.

That means Top That, Pie Five and the raft of competitors sure to come will be vying for roughly the same real estate, franchisees and customers.

A hot category

Tristano of Technomic thinks there’s room. Both brands operate in the red-hot “fast casual” restaurant segment, which has mushroomed into a $25 billion category dominated by sandwiches.

Dallas will see if the two upstart pizza brands can peacefully coexist within the next three months. That’s when Top That Pizza opens in Mansfield — about a half-hour from the first Pie Five.

“This is the first of what we hope will be a series of stores across the western metro area,” said Top That franchisee Tim Staley. “We’re looking at Grapevine, Arlington, Fort Worth, everything from Denton to Southlake.”

Given its home base of Tulsa, “Dallas is an obvious choice for us,” said Rutkauskas, adding that there could be 20 stores locally within five years.

Morrison of Pizza Inn did not respond to questions about Top That.

Monica Feid, who handles media relations for Pizza Inn, said Pie Five is focused on its own growth, which includes opening nine stores between June 2011 and June 2012 and signing deals with franchisees to open more.

Morrison said he envisions up to 30 Pie Five restaurants locally.

Slicing up the turf

As it searches for Pie Five sites, corporate will have to be mindful of a vow made to its resilient Pizza Inn franchisees.

“We spoke with our franchisees before we ever opened [Pie Five] and we told them … we will not infringe on their territory,” Morrison said.

That’ll be a challenge in Dallas-Fort Worth, where Pizza Inn still has more than 20 locations.

The first Dallas Pie Five is set to open in November at Central Expressway and Knox Street. That’s less than three miles from a Pizza Inn.

Morrison thinks Pizza Inn will remain popular with families, especially moms with young children. New Pizza Inns, which are generally larger than Pie Fives, still will open in smaller markets such as Paducah, Ky., or Abilene.

Pie Five will be an urban concept, attracting more young professionals with higher incomes, he said.

“We think there’s room for both brands,” Morrison added. “But the name on the front door [at headquarters] still says Pizza Inn. It will always be Pizza Inn, which is what got us to this point.”