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Pie Five's parent plots new expansion strategy for Pizza Inn

The troubled parent of Pie Five is shifting attention to development of its older Pizza Inn brand with the launch of a new scaled-down format the company intends to license to convenience stores and other nontraditional host locations.

“This could be a game-changer for Pizza Inn as we tap into new markets and expansion opportunities for our flagship brand,” Scott Crane, CEO of parent company Rave Restaurant Group, said in a statement.

The new kiosk concept is branded as Pizza Inn Express, though Rave suggested that it might also use the identifier PIE. The company says its biggest opportunities for the new format are in the c-store business. The kiosks could be tucked inside a store to provide customers with a place to pick up a pie to go, it explained.

Secondary expansion targets include airports and entertainment venues, Rave said.

“It’s a branded concept that’s attractive enough to be the permanent centerpiece in a travel center or airport, yet nimble enough to provide the same benefits traditional operators get from a food truck,” said Bob Bafundo, Pizza Inn’s president.

At age 60, Pizza Inn is one of the industry’s oldest chains. Rave developed Pie Five, a fast-casual pizzeria, as an alternative growth vehicle several years ago. The younger brand grew quickly through franchising, becoming a leader in the booming fast-casual pizza segment. But its sales have tumbled into a free fall in recent months. Pie Five posted a 17.3% drop in same-store sales for the quarter ended Sept. 24.

The declines prompted Rave to close Pie Five units and try such measures as adding delivery.

Pizza Inn, meanwhile, has been outshining its younger sister. The venerable brand posted a 1.4% rise in same-store sales for the same quarter.

"There is a great deal of excitement around the Pizza Inn brand right now,” Crane said at the time. “With impressive international comparable store sales growth and 1.4% domestic comparable sales growth, we are seeing franchisees re-energized and looking to add more units.”

Rave operates or holds the franchise rights to about 300 pizzerias, most operating as Pizza Inns.

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