INSIDE DISH: Restaurateur rebounds with Pizzology

April 16, 2010

Welcome back to IBJ’s new video feature, “Inside Dish: The Business of Running Restaurants.”

Our subject this week is Pizzology Pizzeria & Pub, a new comfort-food concept by local restaurateur and chef Neal Brown. Brown co-owned and operated the high-end, haute cuisine eatery L’explorateur in Broad Ripple from 2006 to 2009, when a steep decrease in sales with roots in the recession forced him to close its doors.

“Boy, you can really see with clarity where your mistakes were” after closing a restaurant, Brown said. In retrospect, he realized L’explorateur likely created too narrow a niche for itself in a market that wasn’t entirely ready for unusual and innovative cuisine at that price point. The average ticket per person was about $65, he said.

Noting that friends who ran pizzerias were seeing sales increases during the recession, Brown started mulling a move into Neopolitan-style pies with more friendly prices. When the owners of a Carmel retail center approached him about occupying a recently abandoned pizzeria space, Brown found a home for his next venture. To his relief, Pizzology was profitable in its first full month, with 13-inch pies for less than $15.

Not entirely familiar with the Neopolitan style, Brown enlisted chef Rob Coate to develop a dough recipe and learn the proper high-heat baking techniques. In the video below, Coate discusses the months of research—including making several pies per day for his family—necessary to arrive at an optimal product.

More Dish: Notes from the back of the napkin

Restaurant: Pizzology Pizzeria & Pub
Concept: Neopolitan-style pizza with locally sourced ingredients prepared in-house, and cooked at 800-900 degrees in a gas/wood-fired pizza oven
Location: 13190 Hazel Dell Parkway, Carmel
Phone: 844-2550
Web site: www.pizzologyindy.com
Founded: November 2009
Majority owner: Neal Brown
Finances:  As majority owner, Brown has an 80-percent stake in the business; a group of minority owners has a 20-percent stake and receives 3 percent of gross sales
Start-up costs: About $200,000 to build out and rebrand existing restaurant space, covered by minority owners
Sales/Profit: The restaurant was profitable in its first full month of operation (December 2009), making $355; the following month, it made a profit of about $8,000. It now is netting about 10 percent of gross sales. Sales for March were about $121,000.
Seating: 75 seats inside; 35 seats in enclosed patio
Goals: To control costs and open another four Pizzology outlets in the next four years, including one by the end of the year.
Good to know: Brown co-owned and operated the high-end hotspot L’explorateur from 2006 to 2009; a steep decrease in sales during the recession forced him to close its doors.


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