That was certainly the case for Fired Up Pizza co-owner Rob Chaput. He was supplying wood burning pizza ovens to Costco and during a sales presentation to the buyers at head office he and his son Brennen made some wood fire pizzas to demonstrate the oven’s capabilities. Turns out, people really love wood fire cooked pizza and a new business was born.
In one hour, they fed 30 or 40 buyers at Costco while demonstrating the ovens. After doing a similar event the next day, Chaput told his then 14 year old son Brennen that if he wanted a lu crative summer job in the future, he should do the wood fire pizza thing.
Brennen did take him up on that offer the following year and brought his friend Aiden Lavoie along with him to form a 3 way partnership. The plan was for Chaput to drop the boys off at a location with a tent and a couple of ovens set up on a trailer and come back later to pick them up. But, things didn’t quite work out that way.
“Within the first week, we were basically selling out every second day,” Chaput recalled during a recent interview from his headquarters in Sudbury, ON. “I was just supposed to drop them off, but I ended up spending just about all day every day with them just to keep up with the demand.”
After their first week, they were selling 100+ pizzas & calzones per day and the team had to adjust rapidly. They started July 1, 2014 and by August 1, they had to bring in a specially made trailer to keep up with the demand and deal with weather issues like rain and wind. Eventually, Chaput replaced the two small wood ovens he had with a big, Italian style one.
They continuously adjusted inventory to predict how many pizzas they’d need, but no matter how many they prepared for, they kept selling out over and over again. Part of the reason the team kept selling out was their decision to use only the best ingredients available. They bought the most expensive & flavorful mozzarella cheese they could find and followed that process through each and every ingredient.
The product is made so well, in fact, that Chaput says they’ve had people who have travelled to Italy tell them it’s the best pizza and calzones they’ve had since they’ve been to Italy.
Now that Chaput has recognized the demand and understands more about what someone needs to run the business, he has applied his business development skills to the Fired Up Pizza franchise model and is very confident that he has developed a very successful “turnkey” operation. It includes a self-contained food concession trailer with full kitchen, all the refrigeration required on board, state of the art pizza making equipment, POS system and so much more right down to the uniforms.
All the preparation work, dish washing and storage is done 100% within the completely selfsufficient trailer. “Everything is actually ready to pull the trigger now,” he said.
The new Fired Up Pizza franchisor has already signed up 2 new franchisees that will be opening in April, 2015 and is in discussions with 3 other potential franchisees. Chaput said he’s looking for energetic people who have entrepreneurial spirit and want to run their own business but who don’t really know how to start. Ultimately, he wants people with some experience or background in customer service or food preparation so they’re already familiar with the fast pace of the business.
While most franchises tend to be expensive, he noted, the package he’s assembled is affordable and franchisees should be able to recoup their investment within a season or two and make more than enough to be able to take half the year off, based on the numbers that he and the boys saw during their one short season of operation.
Chaput, who has been operating his own businesses for about 30 years now, said he wants to take Fired Up Pizza national which is something he has done successfully in one of his past ventures. He is very aware of the logistical challenges associated with growing to a National level and is well equipped to provide support to franchisees from coast to coast. The package does include comprehensive training both in Sudbury and at franchisee’s home turf, plus Chaput and his young partners are always willing to help out if a franchisee has any questions or concerns.
The franchise is essentially a turnkey one and he noted that he would not leave a franchisee on their own until he’s 100% sure they know the ins and outs of the business. As they’ve done exactly zero advertising thus far, most of the franchisee candidates he has are from within a 200 km range. Chaput said he believes it would be a good idea to stay within Ontario to start so he’s closer to new franchisees and can help them more readily if necessary. However, he’s also not opposed to flying out to other places around the country if a viable franchisee expresses interest.
And, once Fired Up Pizza has been established in an area, that makes it easier to expand further into adjacent areas, Chaput noted. From its serendipitous beginnings as a business to its quick jump to becoming a franchise, Fired Up Pizza has done everything quickly and efficiently, thanks to an owner who seems to have a nose for business.