Wichitan Jim Stevens was looking for a new franchise restaurant concept when he got turned on to an upstart Dallas-based pizza franchise.
The veteran Applebee’s and Jason’s Deli franchisee can now add Pie Five Pizza to his list of franchises.
The company, whose fast-casual concept is to allow patrons to customize their pizzas and have them prepared in five minutes, said in a news release that Stevens has signed an agreement to open seven Pie Five stores in Wichita and Tulsa.
Stevens said Tuesday that his first Pie Five restaurant will likely be in Wichita and — he hopes — open in the next six months.
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“I’m fairly sure it’s going to be in Wichita,” he said. “I want to get something moving as quickly as I can.”
Stevens has seven Jason’s Delis restaurants in the Kansas City and Lawrence areas, and 25 Applebee’s in Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
“I have no more area for Applebee’s to expand in,” he said.
It was an Applebee’s connection that led him to Pie Five, which has 10 stores in Texas and one in Utah. The company said that with the Stevens agreement and another with Nebraska franchisee Mike Simmonds, it has 85 restaurant franchises under contract in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia.
“As we expand across the country, word is getting out that Pie Five Pizza is a well-positioned concept with huge potential,” Madison Jobe, chief development officer for Pie Five, said in the release. “It speaks volumes that proven, seasoned operators like Jim Stevens and Mike Simmonds have hitched their wagons to our brand. With partners like them, the sky’s the limit for Pie Five.”
Stevens said he was looking at becoming a franchisee for Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers when a conversation with former Applebee’s CEO Dave Goebel led him to look at Pie Five.
“He was very strong on it,” Stevens said, adding that Goebel told him he thought it was going to be a “blow-out concept.”
Goebel has since become a Kansas City area franchisee with Pie Five and signed an agreement in April to open 10 restaurants.
Stevens said he took a group of people from his office down to Texas to visit a Pie Five restaurant and meet with company officials.
“We tried them, and the pizzas were excellent,” he said. “So after that I met with the principals and felt good about them. … They seemed willing to help and do everything they could to make things work.”
While Stevens is pretty certain about opening his first store here, he said he doesn’t know whether Wichita or Tulsa will get the bulk of his Pie Five stores.
“I really don’t,” he said. “I think Tulsa could be four, maybe five, but that’s speculation.”
He said his company is looking at a couple of sites for the Wichita Pie Five store but declined to disclose the potential locations.
“One thing they haven’t done yet is smaller markets … like Salina, Hutchinson,” Stevens said. “I guess I don’t want to be the pioneer on that deal, but I don’t know why they wouldn’t work there.”