Australian franchise Crust Gourmet Pizza Bars will open its first store in the United States next month as part of an expansion strategy that encapsulates Asia, New Zealand and the Middle East.
Crust, founded by Costa Anastasiadis and Michael Logos, is a 10-year-old pizza chain that last year celebrated its 100th store opening, as well as the opening its first New Zealand site.
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It’s been revealed the franchise, which has been in talks with local US operators since mid last year, has chosen Los Angeles for its flagship opening next month.
The move is part of an expansion strategy of 50 to 100 additional US stores, along with 15 additional stores in New Zealand, which will effectively double Crust’s current store numbers.
There are currently 120 Crust stores in Australia, one in New Zealand and two in Singapore.
According to Anastasiadis, Crust has fielded more than 1,000 franchise enquiries in the last three months as part of its expansion into LA neighbourhood Studio City.
The flagship store is modeled on Crust’s Australian format, with black and white interiors.
“This is a country with a population 15 times that of Australia, so the potential is huge for Crust,” Anastasiadis told Inside Retail.
Crust entered the Singapore market more than two years ago but has not made significant inroads there since, with Anastasiadis last year citing “different challenges” in the market.
“They’ve got a totally different palate,” he said in December.
“We’ve been getting the word out through local area initiatives and have been trying to align ourselves with international clubs to get to the expat community that way.”
Crust is now hoping to use its US expansion to build its presence in Asia.
“We envisage using Singapore as a hub for that region, with further stores to open in Malaysia, China, Indonesia and India,” Anastasiadis said.
“As we did in Singapore, we will take into account the local flavours of the country, and develop a menu that suits the local culture and palate.”
Crust has also indicated it will consider establishing a presence in the Middle East following its appointment of master franchisees to New Zealand and the US.
According to Anastasiadis, Crust is very selective when accepting new franchisees into the system.
Anastasiadis told StartupSmart last year new franchisees undergo four to six weeks of training, with the option of being placed into an existing franchise to gain further experience.
“There are great opportunities at Crust, particularly for people who are committed to customer service, share our passion for gourmet food and have a strong desire to succeed,” he said.
According to Anastasiadis, weaker economic conditions have actually had a positive impact on the business.
“Spending habits are changing, but in our case it’s beneficial because while people are swapping eating out for eating in, they don’t want to compromise on quality,” he said.
“Even when money is tight, people are looking for affordable luxuries. Everyone might be cutting back, but they still want top quality.”