Emerging Brands

How a growing pizza concept is embracing nostalgia to drive traffic

Emmy Squared is fueling its expansion on a menu built around grown-up kiddie classics.
Photograph courtesy of Emmy Squared

Buzzworthy Brands

The concept: Emmy Squared

The details: An eight-unit, full-service Detroit-style pizza concept that’s based in New York.

The backstory: Emily Hyland and Matt Hyland are the co-founders of several restaurants in their Pizza Loves Emily group, including the growing concept Emmy Squared. They brought in industry veteran Howard Greenstone as a partner. Greenstone has been CEO and president of Rosa Mexicano and is currently a strategic adviser and partner with the Marcus Samuelsson Group.

Why it’s worth watching: Emmy Squared is growing smartly, bringing in experts to help with systemizing its operations as it adds units on the East Coast. Detroit-style pizza, known for its puffy, rectangular crust with a rim of crispy cheese along the edge, is growing out of its regional specialty status to becoming well-known around the country. The pizza chain has also received considerable notice for its signature burger, which features two patties, cheese and housemade sauce on a pretzel bun. The chain plans to add units on New York’s Upper East Side and Washington D.C. in the coming months.

spring spread

Photograph courtesy of Emmy Squared 

  1. Why did you decide to broaden your menu beyond pizza?

Emily: At our heart, we are and always have been a pizza restaurant. Matt put a burger on the menu in the early days. We’re tapping into the quality of nostalgia for a bunch of grown-ups here who grew up on this food: pizzas and burgers and chicken wings and eggplant parm. We are rooted in pizza. But we want it to be a full dining experience for different dietary needs. You can come in and have a real adult junk food experience. Or you could come in and eat lots of vegetables and have a slice of your friend’s pizza.

Howard: Our goal is not to dumb down the concept. We’re not your typical pizza place. That’s what makes us unique.

  1. You’ve noted a desire to keep the brand’s neighborhood feel, even as it expands. How are you doing that?

Emily: How do we create that really special vibe that existed in that first restaurant? How do we make that happen as we have more of a corporate structure? The thing that can really make it feel that way is the way we come down as a team and build relationships with our inaugural staff. … It’s important to us that we’re there. When we opened Emily original, it was meant to feel like an extension of our home. That’s something I really work on, on a personal level, to bring that energy to every dining room we have, so it’s warm and welcoming and they feel special and very well taken care of as humans.

Howard: We are going out of our way not to create a chain. It has a neighborhood design. There’s nothing that’s going to let you know that we’re part of a group. Even on the menu, Matt is highlighting certain food products that are specific to that menu.

  1. What are you doing to recruit and retain employees in this challenging market?

Emily: I feel very proud to say we have many people in our ranks now who’ve worked their way up, who were hosts and are managers now. There’s been a lot of upward mobility, within restaurant to restaurant or restaurant to our corporate team. We still have our first pizza maker and our first dishwasher at the original location.

Howard: We incentivize our teams to recruit for us. In Philadelphia, it’s hard to find people. It’s easier if your recruiters are people who work with you. We offer a $500 recruitment fee to employees who bring on an employee who stays with us for a minimum amount of time. If you’re going to pay a recruiter, you might as well pay your own management team. You have hundreds of people recruiting for you, not just one or two.

  1. How is Emmy Squared’s pizza different from other Detroit-style shops?

Matt: Most pizza places, Detroit-style places, the dough is sitting in a portioned-out container and it gets pressed into the pan. We let it rise in the pan. I knew from the beginning, that’s what’s going to separate our pizza. … It’s built in that we need larger walk-ins to have those extra pans. It’s just part of the plan.

Howard: When we run out of pans, we run out of dough. Some of our smaller restaurants have to have 500 pans because of the volume.

  1. Why did you decide to bring in an outside partner and how did you choose Howard?

Emily: Matt and I founded Pizza Loves Emily in 2014, a tiny little 26-seat restaurant in Brooklyn. It was a mom and pop enterprise, held together by duct tape and cardboard boxes. We had taken many meetings with different investors because Matt and I are not the most business-savvy people. Opening the restaurant was a dream, and you don’t think through all of the logistics of what it takes to run an enterprise. We decided to partner with Howard. He has helped turn this into a proper company. We could start systematizing and building a real plan for nationwide growth.

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