Pizza Inn has created its own “restaurant of the future,” and did so by focusing on memorable and shared dining experiences for customers.
Set to debut in Asheboro, North Carolina, later this year, the prototype keeps buffets as the centerpiece, and includes a party room, an Instagrammable “say cheese” wall, game room, and outside patio. The redesign also modernizes Jojo, Pizza Inn’s 64-year-old mascot. The company describes the latest mascot iteration as “friendly and welcoming” yet “gritty and determined,” with Jojo’s sleeves rolled up. There have been seven versions over the years, with the most recent coming in 2017.
“It’s time we shared our brand story,” Chaz Black, senior director of marketing, said in a statement. “We’ve enhanced our dine-in experience and I’m so excited to see this come to life both in person and via social media. Whether our guests are celebrating a birthday in the party room under a customizable kiosk, snapping a selfie in front of the pizza wing Instagram wall, or stacking as many sundae toppings as possible at the sundae bar, Pizza Inn’s dining room is as craveable as our pizzas. The social opportunities to celebrate, snap, and share are going to make our new restaurant concept a must dine.”
Pizza Inn partnered with advertising agency BooneOakley, who’s worked with Bojangles and Mellow Mushroom, and retail design firm Chute Gerdeman, who’s partnered with El Pollo Loco and Krispy Kreme.
“Pizza is fun, and it’s an American staple that provides a sense of comfort and nostalgia unlike any other kind of experience,” Claire Oakley, director of client services for BooneOakley, said in a statement. “We wanted to pay homage to the brand’s legacy while meeting consumers where they are today. This refreshed look is not only found in the logo and our beloved mascot, Jojo—who stands tall and proud—but throughout every aspect of the new restaurant design.”
The chain ended March with 128 stores domestically, down from 140 a year ago. That breaks down to 70 franchised buffets, 49 franchised to-go only units, and nine licensed nontraditional Pizza Inn Express locations. Internationally, there were 31 restaurants.
U.S. same-store sales increased 22.8 percent year-over-year in Q3, which ended March 27. That’s a 12 percent increase on a three-year stack. Parent RAVE Restaurant Group has experienced eight straight quarters of profitability, and CEO Brandon Solano attributed that growth to a focus on core products and innovation, like Pizza Inn’s NYXL Pizza and House Pan Pizza.
Solano views the upcoming prototype as an opportunity to express Pizza Inn in a “compelling and modern way across all of our customer touch points.”
“Few brands can withstand the test of time, increased competition and a pandemic—but we did,” Solano said in a statement. And, we have eight consecutive quarters of profitability behind us to prove it. We are working hard on the economics of this new concept to create a cost-effective design that delivers on customer experience while making financial sense for franchisees and investors alike.”