Your Pie brought its down-the-line pizza concept to Statesboro more than two years ago. Now the franchise has a new owner who finds himself a match for the young and growing, Georgia-born brand.
Britt Hendrix, 27, moved to Statesboro from Athens Aug. 31 and took over as owner of Your Pie, at 701 Piedmont Loop Suite 200, the next day.
"It was crazy. I'm still not unpacked," Hendrix said last week.
At first he hoped for a break in the action to catch his breath. But after a month getting to know staff and suppliers and working on issues such as restoring the restaurant's beer and wine license, Hendrix realizes that the business goes nonstop.
"But it's been good stress," he said. "I wanted all this responsibility, and it's happening. I'm seeing some results. We're getting there."
With city approval for beer and wine now in hand, Hendrix expects to receive the state license soon. Then he will reintroduce craft beers as well as offer a variety of other beers and a selection of wines.
Hendrix, who plays guitar and writes music, plans for his restaurant to host live music - probably on Thursday nights - and also a weekly trivia night and some open mic nights. All these things are designed to draw college students and young people in their immediate post-college years - Hendrix's own demographic.
But he also talks about Your Pie appealing to families. There's no minimum age for consumption of gelato, the smooth, Italian-style ice cream that Your Pie sells in flavors such as raspberry, mango, tiramisu and - for fall - pumpkin. With spinach and sliced tomatoes among the available toppings, some parents see Your Pie pizza as a way to get finicky kids to eat veggies, and the crew will hide them under the cheese if that helps, he said.
Hendrix grew up near Athens. Attending the University of Georgia, he didn't learn about the restaurant business in the classroom, but from restaurant jobs he held while earning a degree in turf grass management. For four and a half years he worked at the Hilltop Grille, an Athens steak and seafood restaurant nearer the "fine dining" end of the scale.
"But I really acquired a lot of the knowledge as far as customer service and how to really go above and beyond with how you portray yourself and entertain your customers, and that's what I'm trying to carry over here," Hendrix said.
After graduation, he moved to Savannah and put his degree to use as an assistant golf course superintendent at the Landings. But he fell out love with that work after two years and returned to restaurants, first at a place on Tybee Island and then back at the Hilltop Grille in Athens
He wanted more, thought of opening a restaurant, and started looking into various franchises.
"I just knew what kind of setup I wanted, and Your Pie was just a perfect fit for me," Hendrix said.
Besides, the founder of the still growing chain returned his calls. At first Hendrix sought a new franchise to call his own, but when he learned that the original owners wanted to sell the Statesboro Your Pie, he found a deal he could not pass up. The investment needed to launch a new Your Pie is typically more than $250,000, but Hendrix said he was able to buy the existing restaurant's contents and keep it going for considerably less.
Your Pie founder Drew French said that Hendrix's youth, enthusiasm and restaurant experience should benefit the brand in Statesboro.
Only 30, French was 25 when he opened the first Your Pie in Athens in 2008. Two years earlier, he and his wife Natalie, who is of Italian stock, had honeymooned on the island of Ischia, near Naples. He was impressed by the local pizza and especially the quick-cooking brick ovens.
French had worked for various "fast casual" franchise restaurants, including Jersey Mike's and Great Wraps. His innovation was to apply their down-the-line approach to brick-oven-baked pizza. In other words, customers get to choose toppings at the counter and see their pizzas being made.
Your Pie started franchising in 2010 and now has 18 restaurants in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee. French owns the first three, in Athens. He hopes to see the brand grow even faster, expanding to about 100 stores by the end of 2015.
"Our goal is to be a globally admired brand, but we're focusing on the Southeast right now," French said.