US fast pizza concept makes move to Britain
Sir Charles Dunstone, the Carphone Warehouse co-founder who brought burger chain Five Guys to Britain, is set to bring a second fast casual dining concept, called MOD Pizza, across from the US.
Dunstone is expected to announce today the signing of a new joint venture with Scott and Ally Svenson, the American couple who launched MOD Pizza seven years ago.
The Svensons have since grown the brand to a 69-strong chain of restaurants across 12 states with a forecast turnover this year of $60m (£38.8m), according to The Times. They announced a year ago that they were looking to bring the pizza brand across the pond and were looking for a UK operating partner.
Instead of waiter service, customers go up to the "pizza builder" to choose their toppings then pay at the till, where they can also order drinks, before waiting for their names to be called out.
The pizzas take three minutes to cook and it is normally six to seven minutes from entering the restaurant to clients getting their food, according to Scott Svenson, while the typical length of a visit is 20 to 30 minutes.
Scott and Ally Svenson, who were also founding shareholders of Carluccio's, previously founded the Seattle Coffee Company in 1994 after travelling to London from Seattle in 1989 and missing their daily visits to Starbucks. Three years later Starbucks bought the chain for £50 million.
It was during their Seattle Coffee days that the couple got to know Dunstone. They were reintroduced to him as a possible business partner by financier Russell Chambers, who was an investor in Seattle Coffee and currently has stakes in Five Guys and MOD Pizza. He will have a small stake in MOD Pizza UK and act as an adviser.
The brand's first UK site is expected to open "somewhere in the South East", in the first half of next year. It will be followed by "a rapid national roll-out", while the announcement of a UK chief executive is expected soon.
Scott Svenson said: "London is very competitive and expensive but we know from our Seattle Coffee and Carluccio's experiences that it's a great market and it will be a big part of our plans."
MOD Pizza's joint venture partner is Freston Ventures, the private investment vehicle set up by Dunstone and Roger Taylor, the former Carphone Warehouse chief executive.
Freston also has an interest in Five Guys, which now has 30 outlets in Britain and is readying to launch in France with three sites in Paris.
Dunstone commented: "Scott and Ally are very Anglophile and have spent a lot of time here, so, unlike some Americans, they understand London and they understand the market."
He added: "Customers want two things - authenticity in terms of provenance and quality of food. Second, they like to be able to customise things. Fast-food restaurants typically feel a bit factory produced and you have no choice. More formal restaurants will do what you want but will tend to charge you extra."
The Svensons have ambitious plans for MOD Pizza, which could be subject to an initial public offering in the next two to three years. Scott Svenson predicted that it would have 100 US restaurants by the end of this year and open 100 a year thereafter "for the foreseeable future".
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