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Research Complete, Rave Tests New Ideas


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Scott Crane is CEO of Rave Restaurant Group.

Scott Crane joined Dallas-based Rave Restaurant Group as CEO in January, after the parent company of Pie Five Pizza and Pizza Inn had turned in some tough quarters and the former CEO was gone. Several months of research have led to some promising tests, especially of delivery at Pie Five.

“When you want it, how you want it,” Crane says is the mantra for customers today, and research showed people would increase their ordering if they could get Pie Five delivered to their homes. The issue for the fast-casual pizza brand was logistics—how to adjust operations to accommodate more orders, and how to deliver the orders to the consumer.

Pie Five is testing both third-party and first-party delivery, each with its own challenges. “We’ve got one franchisee group, a large one,” testing delivery, “and they are behind it full force.” Corporate-owned stores are testing delivery, as well, along with tests of chicken wings and sandwiches. A new store prototype in Plano, Texas, meanwhile, has a revamped interior, logo and menu, and wine by the bottle and glass and craft beer on tap.

Rave is publicly held, and Crane says he cannot yet report the increase in sales from delivery because only two markets are part of the test. “It is a material number,” Crane said.

Crane is best known as CEO of Smashburger for 10 years, which he joined in 2007 when it had two units and led development to 330 restaurants in 35 states and seven countries. But before that he operated a large pizza franchisee. He also wanted to talk about Pizza Inn, Rave’s legacy brand that is testing new ideas, as well. “I grew up eating at Pizza Inn in a small town in Missouri,” Crane says. Consumer research at that brand has led to tests of catering and a new prototype. “For the first time in years,” he says, Pizza Inn is showing a gain in units sold.

Last November, before Crane joined the company, Pie Five reported a 14.7 percent decrease in same-store sales for the quarter. Domestic same-store sales at Pizza Inn increased 0.2 percent in the quarter. The stock is trading today at $1.70 per share, down from about $1.78 a year ago. In other words, Crane still has plenty of heavy lifting to do, but he said signs are promising. “The opportunity to have two brands—it’s a unique opportunity.”

 

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