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Pizza Press rides black-and-white wave


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Pizza Press has “kitschy” newspaper wallpaper and throwback decor.

Living in the resort hinterlands surrounding Disneyland, Dara Maleki felt a lot of the local restaurants served up poor service and lackluster food with prices seemingly aimed at fleecing the throngs of tourists that flock to Anaheim, California. Even with no experience in the restaurant business, he felt he could do better, so he dreamt up a concept that could appease tourist-weary locals as well as mouse-eared visitors.

He chose a 1920s theme that harkens back to a simpler time in American history and serves as a counterweight to the general public’s chronic device addiction. More directly, the name is a play off the dough press used to make its pizzas.

“Why not have the 1920s newsboy theme with the employees in paperboy caps and aprons and kitschy newspaper wallpaper on the wall and some really cool throwback industrial chic decor,” Maleki said of the concept. “It just really fit.”

After the first Pizza Press opened in late 2012, the concept quickly found its footing with three open units and nine in production as of year-end 2015. The company’s goal is to have 12 stores total open by the middle of July, two of which are slated to be company-owned units.

Franchising is planned to be The Pizza Press’ avenue for growth, but it wasn’t originally in the cards until the staff started fielding questions from locals and out-of-towners asking about the brand’s expansion plans.

In its restaurants, past meets the present through a black-and-white color scheme, Edison light bulbs, brass and brown accents and also what Maleki calls “a little bit of Restoration Hardware flair.”

As the company builds its staff and expands its turf, he added his biggest challenge is keeping the team focused on his go-go plans for further growth.

Dara Maleki

“The key here...is being original.” — Dara Maleki,
Pizza Press

“I find myself in full-blown repeat mode every day, constantly pushing my vision and the values of the company,” he said. “It is 100 percent necessary and can’t get lost no matter how big you grow.”

Maleki sees The Pizza Press fitting in a variety of locations, including non-traditional places like airports, stadiums and theme parks.

The company has a dedicated brewery relationship manager—undoubtedly the happiest person on staff—who is always on the hunt for new beer brands to add to its rotating taps. Alcohol sales average 15 to 20 percent of per-store revenue. Acknowledging that pizza is becoming an ever-more crowded space, he hopes the brand’s craft beer selection, chef-driven menu and uncommon branding will be enough to separate The Pizza Press from the maelstrom of similar concepts.

“Competition inspires growth—it’s nothing different than the tech world,” he said. “The key here with all the brands coming to the table is being original, having your identity, and I think that’s something we’ve achieved.”

In other words, Maleki hopes to feel the power of the press.

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