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Your Pie executive management team (left to right): Bucky Cook and Drew French, with Drew’s father Allen French, at the grand opening of their Buckhead location, near Atlanta.

October 21, 2016 – Right next to Atlanta (No. 17 on the CNBC Metro 20 list) is another Georgia metro area adding small-business success stories.

With lots of competition deploying aggressive unit-growth strategies to capitalize on the $45 billion U.S. pizza market, Athens, Georgia-based Your Pie is expanding more methodically.

Founder Drew French said the slow-growth approach was chosen to “make sure we’re going to be able to compete over the long term.” French, inspired by the brick-oven pizza practices of Ischia, Italy, where he honeymooned, opened his first shop in 2008 as one of the first build-your-own pizza franchises where customers point out their own toppings as they walk down the line. It’s not easy to resist the temptation to expand like crazy in a pizza niche that is now one of the biggest booms going in the fast-casual restaurant sector.

In fact, three or four years after launch, as French started to see an influx of competitors, he sold a minority stake in Your Pie to a private-equity firm, Georgia Oak Partners. Instead of putting the cash toward selling more franchises, Your Pie made some executive-level hires and invested heavily in R&D, figuring out where in the kitchen his staff could work faster while still churning out quality pies. For example, Your Pie figured out that having a supply of hand-tossed dough ready to go, rather than tossing it after a customer orders, saves about 15 to 30 seconds per order.

CEO Bucky Cook said that since the changes were made, same-store sales volume is up roughly 15 percent; new stores that have opened since Your Pie made the changes are seeing roughly 35 percent more sales volume than old stores. “We’d like to grow more aggressively, but we’re not doing it at the expense of watering down our culture,” Cook said. Your Pie, whose system-wide sales are expected to reach $24 million this year, currently has 35 locations, with plans to add five more this year and 25 to 30 more by the end of 2017.

See the full article here.