Chris Partyka bought into the Pizza Patron franchise system seven years ago with three units in San Antonio, intent on developing that market for the Latin-inspired, Dallas-based chain. Since then, he’s opened five more stores in San Antonio and another three in Austin. But he’s done a lot more for the brand than simply expand its presence. He helped the chain develop its new QSP (quick-service pizza) prototype, a carry-out only variation of its stores specializing in LISTA-NOW READY products as well as in custom-made pizzas baked in just over three minutes. The ability to do QSP gave Partyka another hot idea: take pizza into the drive thru.
Prior to becoming a Pizza Patron franchisee, Partyka spent more than a decade working his way up from dishwasher to GM at Chick-fil-A, a chain known for its drive-thru expertise. “We can now cook our pizzas in 3.5 minutes so we can give guests a custom-made pie and get them in and out of the drive thru fast. That’s really unheard of in the pizza business. It seemed like a no-brainer and I had just the store to put one in.”
That store was an existing 918-square-foot freestanding unit in San Antonio that Partyka felt could handle the addition of drive thru. He sold the idea to corporate, had it installed and within the first month saw revenues increase by 22 percent. Guests could call ahead to order for pick-up, drive in and pick up a LISTA-NOW READY pie and be on their way, or order a custom-made pie right at the drive thru, pull ahead and wait for it to be brought out in three or four minutes. “It was the best thing we ever did,” he says. That was five years ago. He’s since incorporated drive thrus into several other locations, as well, and last month took the idea a step further by opening Pizza Patron’s first double drive thru in San Antonio. One lane serves customers picking up LISTA-READY NOW products and pre-orders, while the second lane accommodates those ordering custom-made pies.
“No less than 60 percent to 70 percent of sales now come through the drive thru in stores that have them,” Partyka says. “Of those sales, about 60 percent are custom-made pizzas and 40 percent LISTA.”
By sharing his experience and systems, Partyka has helped Pizza Patron take drive thru beyond his stores. Fifteen percent of the chain’s stores now feature drive thru, and those stores average 23 percent higher sales than standard stores, says Andrew Gamm, brand director. It’s become an important competitive advantage. “Chris is bold. If we didn’t have someone like him heading this up, there’s no way we would do it,” Gamm says of the double drive through in particular. “It takes someone with the experience and the confidence to say, ‘Hey, I can make this work.’ He’s once again laying the groundwork on a concept that has potential to be duplicated in other markets. Anyone can have a good idea, but they also have to be able to execute. With Chris, we get both.”
S.A. Pizza Inc.
San Antonio, Texas
Franchises: 11 Pizza Patron units
2011 Sales: $4.3 million