He also believes the lunch menu will attract new customers to the catering part of Patxi’s business.
“In an office maybe they're only going to order pizza once a month,” Morthole says. “But now that we have different catering options with sandwiches, soups, and some different appetizers, I think we can open ourselves up to a lot more catering opportunities.”
Even though Patxi’s is a full-service brand, the pizza chain has a strong hold on delivery across its 17 restaurants in California, Colorado, and Washington. The means are constantly evolving, however.
Patxi’s started out with in-house delivery before bringing on third-party partners. Now, the company is starting to transition back to in-house service, adding more drivers to the team.
But that strategy doesn’t work in every market, Romo says. Patxi’s is working out how to service every store properly. In San Francisco, for instance, customers are willing to pay delivery fees for the convenience.
“But in some of our other regions, like Colorado where it’s a little more spread out, we've been able to deliver ourselves and be our own delivery teams, and take control of the hospitality experience,” Romo says.
The brand is trying to balance speed and cost without losing control of the customer experience. Relying on someone who isn’t a part of the company’s culture is a risky proposition. “You're gambling with the fall through of the promise in ensuring that guests are getting the quality that they're used to after 15 years of understanding what a Patxi’s pizza is all about,” Romo says.
That control exists in Colorado, but hasn’t quite fit into the San Francisco market yet.
And the solution isn’t an easy one. Recruiting qualified drivers to join the Patxi’s team exclusively is a challenge, Romo says. Drivers who work with other delivery services can be their own boss and fill up their schedules with whatever orders they choose.
In order to make the new driver positions cost effective, Romo says, the company will cross-train employees. Drivers will handle kitchen prep and expediting orders to make sure they get out on time. This strategy is working across the Colorado market, and Romo believes it will help as the brand expands.
“I think the answer to the delivery question depends on where you're at regionally,” Morthole says. “If you have a third-party delivery company that can supplement your delivery drivers to help you not have 10 delivery drivers on your schedule on a Friday night when you're doing the most amount of delivery, that’s great. Or if you have five cross-trained people and you can supplement that with using a third-party platform on a higher-density population area. I think that's the answer.”
Patxi’s is being careful when it comes to expansion. All restaurants are company-owned and that strategy will continue in the near future. For now, franchising is off the table, Romo says.
San Diego is the next area of focus for growing Patxi’s. Over the next few months, two locations will open in Chula Vista with a third following in Hillcrest. Romo sees a lot of potential for development in Southern California.
“We want to make sure that we have a model that's refined with some of our goals that we're trying to achieve—building catering, building sales and check averages, getting the guests to a better overall experience—are being met,” he says.
Every market is in play. Given that Elite’s other restaurants brands have a strong foothold in Texas, it’s a safe bet that could be the next major area of development for Patxi’s.
“I definitely believe there's value to continue to grow where we already exist and where there are roots to make our presence more firm and increase some awareness,” Romo says. “I think Texas is a no brainer for the hospitality industry.”