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e&s segment spotlight "And most of my customers were from the East Coast." Despite his dad pleading with him to continue work- ing in the family's fine-dining restaurant, Russo saw a huge opportunity and was determined to franchise his pizzeria concept. Fast forward to 1994, after much research, trial and error, and buying and selling of his stores, Russo figured out how to expand and profit from his franchise business. "Since then, I've improved it, learned a great deal and worked on SOPs [standard operating procedures] to fine-tune it," he says. What was working from the get-go was the food. Con- sequently, throughout this process, Russo kept the menu consistent, staying with the same recipes, ingredients, sauce and dough. Everything is fresh and prepared from scratch. The majority of ingredients are imported from Italy. Olive oil trumps canola oil; pizza toppings are natural and hor- mone free; and high-protein flour is a key crust component. Gluten-free pizza and pasta also are offered. In the late '90s, after hiring his first franchise lawyer and rewriting the franchisee agreement, Russo's business began to take off. Today, Russo's New York Pizzeria has 48 loca- tions, including 6 company-operated restaurants. Seven years ago, the chain opened its first international location in the Middle East and now has seven sites in Dubai, one in Riyadh and seven others planned for the region. Sites are custom built and range in size from 1,500 to 4,000 square feet. Although all have open kitchens, the decor varies by location. Common elements include granite counters, old Chicago brick walls, photos of New York City and hardwood floors. Equipment remains consistent at all sites and includes stone and brick pizza ovens, dough mixers, a saute station with open burners for preparing sauce and a small grill for preparing chicken and vegetables. Prep tables with refrigera- tion for toppings also are a key component. "[In terms of equipment], I've tried it all and stick with the best," says Russo. Every four to five years, the chain refreshes its brand with the help of an architectural team. "What everyone is doing in the segment today is what I've been doing all along," says Russo. "As a chef, I know the importance of using fresh ingredients, yet our food costs are reasonable, which is attractive to franchisees." Turning Coal-Fired Turnkey The original business plan for 1000 Degrees Neapolitan Pizza was created about eight years ago and included a goal to develop a coal-fired pizza that was essentially turnkey. To some, the challenge may have seemed insurmountable. But to CEO Brian Petruzzi, who describes himself as entrepre- neurial by DNA, his idea seemed destined for success. "I started four companies while still in college, and wrote the coal-fired model at the same time as I was launching a frozen yogurt franchise," Petruzzi says. Realizing the pizza concept required more time than froyo, Petruzzi concentrated on his dessert venture and expanded that to 24 stores before retailoring the pizza model 118 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 Although decor varies depending on location, Russo's New York Pizzerias' common design elements include brick, hardwood floors and granite counters. Russo's open kitchen features a sleek, streamlined design for the utmost efficiency.