By Dave Flaherty
The term ‘pizza lover’ applies to most of the world’s population, but it takes a certain kind of foodie to jump into the world of quick-service restaurants (QSRs).
That’s exactly what the folks at Carbone Restaurant Group (CRG), based in Winnipeg, Man., did in 2018 when they established FAST FIRED by Carbone, a pizza franchise whose name is based on the brand’s core attributes of ‘Fresh, Authentic, Sustainable, and Tailored (FAST).’
There are currently three FAST FIRED locations in Manitoba, and a fourth location opened this summer in Regina, Sask. There are four more franchises set to open by the end of this year in Calgary, Edmonton, Grand Prairie, Alta., and Saskatoon.
The company, led by CEO and founder Benjamin Nasberg, is continually signing new franchise agreements, with plans in place to continue expanding into Ontario and British Columbia.
One of the most prominent features of the FAST FIRED concept is its focus on customization, with more than one million possible pizza topping combinations on their menu, including a growing array of exclusive, plant-based ingredients sourced from Canadian suppliers, including Vancouver-based Modern Meats.
There is plenty of innovation going on within CRG and the FAST FIRED brand, with partnerships formed with some leading high-tech innovating companies.
Canadian Business Franchise spoke with Doug Warren, CRG’s vice-president of franchise development, about how things are heating up for the brand.
Canadian Business Franchise: What is your franchise’s recipe for success in a competitive market?
Doug Warren (DW): At CRG, we’re in the business of delighting customers, and our customers include both the individuals who order from us as well as our franchisees who we partner with to help grow their businesses. We believe the key ingredient to both differentiating ourselves and to succeed is to offer an unrivalled array of customizable menu offerings at a compelling price point. We cater to each customer’s individual tastes by offering custom-made pizza and a million different combinations, all for one great price, and we’re constantly adding ingredients that reflect what customers want. We have a young and progressive leadership team that earns the trust of our partners and franchisees by both leading with empathy and delivering results. Put that all together, and in a climate where there’s more interest than ever before in healthy QSRs, we think we’re uniquely well positioned, and the response in the market reflects that.
CBF: What technology has revolutionized your business?
DW: An increasing segment of our customer base is made up of progressive, health-conscious, and extremely tech-savvy Millennials and Gen Z’ers. Social media and other new media technology tools allow us to constantly be in conversation with them, keeping on top of their evolving interests and passions and ensuring our brand, customer experience, and menu offerings are in line with those preferences. There are countless examples of CRG innovating based on our learnings from these customer interactions. For instance, we’ve expanded our menus to include more plant-based offerings because we saw how much our customers were increasingly becoming passionate about these diets online. Additionally, we’re always using our data and analytics tools to help us track the evolving tastes in each market we service and plan to serve to make sure our plans are keeping pace with what current and future CRG customers want.
CBF: Why is your brand a sound investment opportunity?
DW: We know many of our FAST FIRED franchisees and prospective franchisees are often either first-generation Canadians or the first generation of their families to own and operate a business, and we owe them a duty, as their partners, to position them the best we can for success. We’re constantly updating on our systems and processes, ensuring they’re as sound and comprehensive as possible so we can get franchisees off to the races on day one to best serve customers. Our most recent opening in Regina this summer was a resounding success, and we think it’s a real bellwether for the many location openings we have in the pipeline. We think our brand offers a compelling value proposition because of our commitment to healthy, sustainable menu options, our pace of constant innovation, and our growing portfolio of partnerships with suppliers and other companies who share our vision. Whatever our franchisees need, our team is going to be there for them every step of their way and help ensure their individual success.
CBF: Why are customers attracted to your franchise’s brand?
DW: In an era where everyone is their own brand (at least on social media), everyone also wants (and deserves) their own fully customizable meals, whether it is a FAST FIRED pizza or salad. Our customers love the fact that not only do we have unlimited toppings, but we’re always adding new, fresh, locally sourced options to excite them and keep them on their toes. Our brand reflects our leadership team—its forward thinking and fun—and customers get that same experience when dining at one of our locations, which are always friendly, clean, bright, and able to provide a seamless and quick ordering experience.
CBF: Where do you see your franchise in the next 20 years?
DW: It’s been said we saw a decade’s worth of technological change over the past two years. If we’re looking two decades out from here, that’s a long way. I’ll tell you this though—our core values and leadership principles dictate our only constant will be continued innovation (because that’s what our customers want). We always say we want to continue to be the company others in our industry look to when deciding where to go next. It wouldn’t surprise me if you look at us in the future and see a company which grew at an impressive pace, but in a smart way. We’re committed to empowering each of our franchisees and helping build the best business they can—so I’d expect you will see even more health-conscious offerings reflecting what today and tomorrow’s young consumers want, and maybe some add-ons that complement the core FAST FIRED brand.