According to CNN, regional European menu items, including Italian cuisine, are one of the Top 10 Food and Drink Trends for 2011.

Recognizing the consumer's desire for a concept that offers a variety of fresh and delicious Italian fare, Big Game Brands, formerly Raving Brands, recently purchased New Orleans favorite The Original Italian Pie and announced plans to expand the concept throughout the Southeast.

After a successful launch, Big Game Brands announced an area developer deal to open 25 locations over the next ten years.

The Original Italian Pie secured the area developer agreement with experienced franchise owner and area developer Linver Leffel. Leffel, with more than 30 years of restaurant management and development experience, plans to open units in North Florida, Southern Alabama, and Southern Georgia.

While the agreement between The Original Italian Pie and Leffel calls for a ten-year build-out of the 25 stores, the two are wasting no time with real estate selection, store development, and training. Leffel plans to open the first Italian Pie location in Pensacola, Florida, where he has lived and worked for most of his life.

"Restaurant management and development are my life's passions and I am excited to be a part of an emerging concept like The Original Italian Pie," Leffel says. "This concept is well suited for the various markets we plan to open locations in and I look forward to seeing the various communities' response to the brand."

In addition to the area developer deal, The Original Italian Pie opened its first corporate location in Charlotte, North Carolina, and plans to open a franchised location in the Garden District of New Orleans in July. With single-unit operators and area developers already taking an interest in the brand, Big Game Brands sees growth potential in the Southeast.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of potential franchisees for Italian Pie, primarily in the Southeast region of the country," says Daryl Dollinger, president of the Original Italian Pie. "We believe this increase has to do with the concept's quality menu items and focus on exceptional customer service. With increased opportunities for capital, we believe more small business owners will choose franchised concepts such as The Original Italian Pie due to their established success rate."

Founded in New Orleans in 1992, The Original Italian Pie is famous for its gourmet made-to-order pizzas, featuring made-from-scratch dough and sauce and topped with fresh, hand-cut toppings. 

Industry News, NextGen Casual, The Original Italian Pie