Mitchell Millar, co-owner of Best Pizza & Brew in the San Diego area, has worked three jobs in his life. All three of them were at pizzerias.

Millar first worked alongside his co-owner, Joey Freis, in high school, when the two were delivery drivers for a small chain called Pizza Nova. Later, when the owners of Pizza Nova opened up Best Pizza & Brew in 2013, both Freis and Millar started working there. Just two years later they would buy Best Pizza & Brew—when they were at the ripe age of 21.

“We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” Millar said. “We just knew it was a really good opportunity.”

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The brand has since scaled to five locations—plus three stands at local stadiums in the area—and will soon open up a sixth brick-and-mortar. Millar and Freis are trying to grow Best Pizza & Brew by two or three locations per year, with a longterm goal of “35 [locations] by [20]35.”

One of the things that made Best Pizza & Brew feel like an opportunity is that the brand had few rivals in the San Diego market. To hear Millar tell it, the brand still doesn’t have much competition. “I’m honestly surprised nobody has copied our business model yet,” Millar said.

Customers order in a counter-service format, take a number to their table and then are waited on by staff members hand-selected by Millar and Freis. This allows patrons to order another beer—or, say, choose a dessert—without having to re-enter the line.

“Our service model is built to give the same quality of service as a full-service restaurant—but hopefully even better,” Millar said. “It sounds cliche, but a smile is part of the uniform, and having fun is part of the job description.”

While there are plenty of pizzerias and breweries in the San Diego area, few combine the two as effectively as Best Pizza & Brew. The brand serves up thin-crust, New York-style pizza by the slice or pie, alongside craft beer that is brewed on their behalf. Best Pizza & Brew always has a house Hazy IPA, an IPA and a Blonde Ale on tap—with other beers rotating across taps. The Best Pizza & Brew menu also includes sandwiches, wings, salads, wraps and even a top-notch Wagyu Burger.

Best Pizza & Brew

“We purchase some of the highest quality ingredients when it comes to making our food, including Grande Cheese and Waygu beef for our burgers, which we have been told are some of the best in town,” Freis told SanDiegoVille in 2023. “We also pride ourselves on making a lot of our ingredients fresh daily, including our dough, all of our dressings and even our croutons.”

Each restaurant features an “ice tower”—a layer of ice across a beer tower—with tap lines going every which direction. It’s a spectacle to behold for those entering a Best Pizza & Brew, Millar said, also pointing to the large number of TVs at each location.

But Best Pizza & Brew is not to be confused with a sports bar. At least a couple of the TVs are dedicated to action sports—things like surfing and skateboarding, which are especially popular in the San Diego area—and the TVs are always on mute. Instead, music permeates through each store, just loud enough to provide energy, but not so loud it’s challenging to have a conversation. The entire experience is meant to convey a laid-back atmosphere built to reflect the beach culture of the area.

To ensure all staff members have bought into the restaurant’s unique mission, Millar still personally interviews every applicant, even if he has to do so via Zoom. He also believes in the idea of giving team members ownership of the brand by training them to do high-level tasks, like budgeting and forecasting at the managerial level.

“One of the things we explain from day one is that I don’t pay your paycheck, the guests coming in pay your paycheck,” Millar said. “We all want to be a part of getting guests in the door, remembering who they are and doing whatever we can to get them coming back. We have really good energy in the building because of this: If you can create that vacation culture it becomes a contagious environment.”

Millar noted that moving into new markets—the next store they open will be Murrieta, in the Inland Empire—will present new challenges. The type of team members they’ve been able to find in the San Diego suburbs may be an outlier compared to what they’ll find in the communities where they open additional stores. But it’s impressive for Millar and Freis to have already grown the brand as much as they have after buying a single pizzeria when they were 21 years old—and it seems to illustrate that no matter where they go, success will follow.

“I spent a year attending college at [the University of Arizona],” Millar said. “When I dropped out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew I didn’t want to work a desk job. We’ve been figuring this out as we go ever since we bought it. We got advice from a lot of really smart people. But really, working in the pizza industry, this is all I know.”

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