How two veteran Domino’s franchisees flipped the switch and took a chance on fresh-fired pizza.
Before Dave Wood founded Firenza Pizza in 2015 with business partner, Dave Baer, he was a Domino’s Pizza franchisee for more than 30 years owning 17 locations around Northern Virginia. Throughout these years, he appreciated the day-to-day of running a Domino’s: learning the ropes of running a pizza business, continuously improving customer service and building a network of owners throughout his community.
As Wood mastered the fundamentals of how to run a multi-unit business, he started exploring the industry as a whole and started seeking out emerging trends on the horizon. He’d always been a purveyor of pizza, keeping up on what was new in the sector and shifts in consumer preference; he quickly uncovered the movement towards a fresh-fired pizza that’s ready in mere minutes and realized an open market for a similar concept, but one that held quality above all.
“I felt like the one thing missing was really great pizza. Too many people in the fast-casual space were using tortilla presses to press out their dough not knowing that this process presses out all of the air pockets and doesn’t allow for the dough to fully rise,” says Wood.
Wood sold his Domino’s locations and took a break from the business of pizza, assessing his career path and what he wanted to invest in next. In 2015, in Fairfax, Virginia, Baer and Wood returned to the industry and started the fast-casual concept, Firenza Pizza.
“At Firenza, we went back to the basics and focused on developing a high-quality pizza that started with hand-tossed dough, fresh San Marzano tomatoes and artisan cheese with no additives or fillers,” says Wood.
Patrons can choose from almost 40 freshly prepared toppings like Chipotle sausage, Buffalo Chicken, portobello mushrooms and even Pico de Gallo. From there, the pizza is popped into a stone hearth and flame fired until crisped to perfection in just minutes. In addition to custom-built pizzas, the brand offers wings, meatballs, signature salads and eight handcrafted pies like the Big Kahuna featuring red sauce, mozzarella, provolone, ham, bacon, pineapple, red onion and jalapenos.
The built-to-order concept is quickly gaining ground as it recently celebrated the opening of its first Los Angeles restaurant and now has locations throughout the U.S. in Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas City and Louisville among several other hubs. Firenza has 15 locations and has plans to open five to seven additional locations just this year. As the brand continues to expand, single and multi-unit franchise opportunities are currently available throughout the country.
“When we’re looking for partners, it’s good to have experience owning a business or in the corporate world,” says Wood. “Our ultimate goal is to find people who are passionate about the concept and the commitment to quality and tradition that it embodies.”