Solid as a rock star

Elvis. Miley Cyrus. The Beatles. Theseare just some of the musicians whosememorabilia you will encounter whendining at Rockstar Pizza (rockstarpizza.net) in Brownsburg, Indiana. FounderRon Mathews has offered a variety ofgourmet pies and subs, as well as a rockstar-friendly environment for musiclovers, since 2007.

Rockstar is housed in an early 20thcenturybrick building with wallscovered with rock-and-roll posters,ticket stubs, albums and autographedphotos of contemporary artists fromPink to Smashing Pumpkins. Glossyconcert tickets and photos adorn tables,bringing familiar faces to each diningexperience. “My wife worked for SonyRecords, and it gave us access to catera lot of well-known musicians,” saysMathews. “We wanted to blend ourlives together, and I’m a pizza man,so Rockstar Pizza was formed. Wedecided to use my wife’s memorabilia,gold records, vinyl and CDs to decoratebecause they’re great conversationpieces. We put backstage passes andphotos with artists varnished on thetables and have created an atmospherethat really gets people talking.”

A “pizza man” since he graduated highschool, Mathews started out working forindependent operators, then followedhis dream to start his own store. He remembershis college business professortelling him, “Whatever you do, it has tobe something that you are passionateabout,” and he did.

A Meal Fit for a Rock Star

Rockstar’s slogan is “where gourmet pizzaand subs take center stage.” The pizzeriaoffers 23 gourmet toppings and 13specialty pizzas with three types of crust:hand-tossed, thin-crust and deep-dish.The White Out pie, a Rockstar specialty,is made with a fresh butter and roastedgarlic olive oil base and dusted with oregano.Another must-have is The Works,layered with crumbled sausage, red onion,green peppers, black olives, freshmushrooms and pepperoni. Mexicanfood lovers often order the Tex Mex: asalsa base with seasoned beef, red onion,lettuce, tomato, taco cheese and tortillachips, served with sour cream. “The mainthing that sets us apart from other placesis our menu of gourmet pizzas,” Mathewssays. “We have several toppings that ourlocal competitors do not carry, such asspinach, feta, artichoke and sun-driedtomatoes. We make pizzas that you won’tfind anywhere else.”

Some of the most popular of the 16oven-baked gourmet sandwiches offeredare the BBQ Chicken, Veggie Deluxeand Italian Beef; Mathews notesthat some customers come in early toensure they get their subs before they’reall gone. The Italian Beef offers thinlysliced beef marinated in the specialRockstar blend of au jus and servedwith hot or mild giardiniera. StromboliWorks is a concoction of crumbledsausage, fresh mushrooms, red onions,green peppers and black olives, all coveredwith pizza sauce and mozzarella.

Rockstar is constantly coming upwith new creations and inviting customersto come in and try them for thesmall price of giving feedback. One exampleof Rockstar’s creativity is a BigMac Pizza that was created last summer.This McDonald’s-inspired pizza is madewith Thousand Island dressing, groundbeef, pickles, cheddar cheese, bacon andtomatoes—everything your typical BigMac would have. “The idea came fromPMQ’s Think Tank, and it was an instanthit,” Mathews says. “New pizzas createexcitement and loyalty.”

Much Praise

​Rockstar Pizza’s creativity in the kitchenhas not gone unnoticed; it has beennamed Best Pizza in Hendricks Countysince 2008, and was voted Hendricks’ bestthin-crust pizza in 2009 and 2010. Thepizzeria was also awarded Yahoo’s BestPizzeria in Brownsburg. IndianapolisMonthly awarded Rockstar with “Best ofthe Burbs” in 2008, and its CaribbeanTwist pizza won Best Pizza at theIndianapolis food show hosted by GordonFood Service in 2010. “We have a reallydiverse menu with some exotic pizzachoices,” Mathew explains. “For theadventurer, our Caribbean Twist is ourbest-seller, but for our less adventurouscustomers, it’s a coin flip between TheWorks and Meat Lovers Pizzas. A newpizza that is just starting to catch fire isour Thai pizza, featuring chicken curryand a red pepper glaze. It’s my favorite!”

To generate buzz in the community,Rockstar offers various discountsand coupons to customers, particularlythrough the VIP Club, which allows customersto sign up online and receive coupons,specials and promotions by email.Customers are automatically entered intoa free gift certificate drawing when theyapply, and they get to enjoy $3 off Rockstar’spizza. Rockstar sends out emails toa list of 700 people each week. “We dothe typical things like Valpak and menumailers, but the main thing we focus onis supporting our community,” Mathewssays. “For the annual Easter egg hunt,which is a huge deal around here, we provided1,000 coupons and freebies for theeggs. We gave away some coupons andincluded a lot of free breadstick couponsor free 7” pizza coupons in the eggs, aswell. People redeem them all year long!”

Rockstar also gives away 600 free 7”pizza vouchers to an elementary schoolreading program on a regular basis. “Everyyear, we sponsor five or six Little Leagueteams,” Mathews says. “In our town, thechains don’t do anything for the community,and neither do any of the otherindependents, so it’s a great way for us giveback and stand out at the same time.”

Media Savvy

When it comes to marketing, Rockstarkeeps up with the latest technology. Thepizzeria has its own app that customerscan download to their smartphones andmobile devices. Rockstar’s app allowsusers to stay up-to-date with the latestmenu options, coupons and notifications.“We market aggressively online,as well as being visible in the community,”Mathews notes. “We have an amazingwebsite that we have spent countlesshours on, plus a Facebook page that wethink will explode in 2011. I think thatFacebook combined with smartphonesare going to be the new ways to connect
instantly with our customers.”

Rockstar Pizza has evolved since the dayMathews opened the doors and he hopesgrowth continues this way. “We hope that2011 will be a growing year for us,” hesays. “We will be using tips from PMQ andtrying out some new recipes. We will soonbe looking for a larger place where we canhave a salad bar, a place where we canserve beer and wine, and a party room.”Just like the rock stars that populate thewalls of this pizzeria, Mathews understandsthe importance of an ever-growingfan base.

Kristie Warino is a PMQ editorial intern.