Claiming to deliver delicious natural pizzas with no chemicals and high nutritious value is US based pizza brand Naked Pizza. Robbie Vitrano one of the four founders of Naked Pizza shares the successful voyage of the brand so far and its launch in India
Neha Gohil (NG): Shed some light on the success journey of the brand so far? What was your notion behind the brand name ‘Naked Pizza’?
Robbie Vitrano (RV): I am one of four founders of Naked Pizza. My partners are Jeff Leach, Randy Crochet and Brock Fillinger and Ian Ohan is our International partner. We began this journey in post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans. We launched by leaning into social innovation and social media, remaking one of the world's most popular and unhealthy foods as deliciously healthy. We used a $50 billion industry and proven business model as a Trojan horse to quickly gain distribution and influence, demonstrating that fast-food can be a part of the solution for the global epidemic of obesity and chronic disease attributable to diet. In 2009 we gained the backing of billionaires Mark Cuban and Robert Kraft and launched franchising, receiving more than 6000 inquiries, hundreds of international media mentions, and now have more than 500 locations in development around the world. And we put two of the world's favorite words together in our name – ‘naked’ and ‘pizza.’ Naked means natural, nothing to hide - no secrets and authentic - stripped down to what is real and what matters in business, food and life.
NG: What is the USP of Naked Pizza?
RV: A pizza can be both delicious and a healthy part of your lifestyle. A recipe based on real food with nothing artificial but 10 whole grains, pre-biotics food fiber and pro-biotic fiber instead of the typical delivery pizza crust of a highly processed grain. But still pizza is saucy with creamy mozzarella. Still round, still comes in a square box, delivered to your door hot and fast.
NG: What are the factors responsible for brands’ plans for entry in to India? When can we expect Naked Pizza's entry into Indian market?
RV: We are patient and focused and will carefully seed in our brand with influencers who appreciate Naked as a healthier option that does not require a trade off in taste. With our partners we have identified about 30 micro-markets that are ideal for our introduction. We will start with a pilot, invest heavily in building relationships in the community, learn and move from there. Our first location will be in Mumbai, opening sometime in late 2011.
NG: Where does the India stands in Naked Pizza’s Global Operations?
RV: India will be our third international location along with Dubai and Beirut. We are also planning development in Australia, Japan, and other areas of the MENA region. We are truly honored to be doing business in one of the most remarkable countries on earth. We have benefited from establishing good relations in key areas of talent, supply and marketing. We have great and trusted Indian partners. Our international team is deeply experienced - in the industry and in our success together. That said we are not naive to the challenges of doing business in such a dynamic and complex place.
NG: How many franchise outlets Naked Pizza plans to open? What is the strategy regarding the brands’ expansion via franchise model across India?
RV: India is a joint venture, similar to other partnerships we have formed abroad. Our rollout in India will focus on one unit at a time.
NG: Naked Pizza is based on latest nutritional science. Please elaborate.
RV: My partner Jeff Leach is an anthropologist specialising in diet and cooking techniques. He has also worked with food companies from around the world in nutrition science. That human suffering as well as the unsustainable costs associated with its treatment is what put Naked Pizza into motion. In short, we ate our way into the problem, we will have to eat our way out of it - fortunately it can taste like pizza.
We are not a silver bullet, but a metaphor for what is possible, pointing out the failure of responsibility in the fast-food industry by showing that with a few changes, you can make a pizza that is tasty, affordable, convenient and healthy.
NG: Which segment of consumer are you targeting in India? How will it adapt itself to Indian conditions in context of both palate and pocket of Indian people?
RV: People who appreciate quality product and customer service - discretionary - and appreciate a good value. We are fully sensitive to the culture and we will do more and do not expect to substantially alter our recipe as the response has been overwhelming. We are focused on a fair price and delivering exceptional value.
NG: There are so many other big Pizza brands already dominating the market. How you will tackle the competition?
RV: We have successfully competed from day one. Our first store in New Orleans is a literal stone's throw from one of the busiest Papa John's in the US. We really do not worry about those guys – they have made their bed. We are filling a need people are ready for – its’ going to be us.
NG: What requisites you prefer in a prospective franchisee? How you will support and train a franchisee?
RV: We are impossibly selective. Aside from a demonstrated success and resources we only talk to people who are realistic, embrace the mission and can add value. We are not franchising – we are launching a movement. Many are called, few are chosen.
NG: What is your preference in terms of area and investment requirement?
RV: We are focused on solid joint ventures. People need to bring their own resources. We do not do business with middlemen. There are many areas that are perfect for the right people.