Super fast pizza

One Monday morning I was surfing the Internet for interesting tidbits of pizza news to post to PMQ.com newsroom. Most of the time I find stuff on robberies, sales stats for the chains, and events hosted by pizzerias. Rarely do I find anything on a new pizza idea. Well, this particular morning I typed "pizza" into Google News (a part of Google that captures headlines from 4,500 news sources) and came up with three pages of articles on a place in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, called Super Fast Pizza.

The articles were on this guy who has developed a mobile pizza van business. This wasn't just a van that transported pizza in warmers; they actually had ovens in the van. I decided we needed to check this guy out. What a great idea-make the pizza on the way to the delivery.

As luck would have it, I was headed to Wisconsin the next week for a U.S. Pizza Team competition at the Wisconsin Restaurant Expo. I called the owner, Scott Matthew, and asked if we could come check out his vans. So, one night after the tradeshow ended, I drove the hour from Milwaukee to Fond du Lac to see Super Fast Pizza in action.

We finally found the building where Scott houses his two Super Fast Pizza vans. Scott began the grand tour of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, which are the high-roofed vans used for ambulances in Europe. The vans cost about $32,000 each, Scott says. Scott outfitted the vans with five ovens, two coolers and touch-screen monitors. Overall, it cost Scott about $75,000 to buy and to outfit each van. The monitors are connected to an Internet-based ordering system. The calls come into a call center based in Nebraska, Scott says. They also take orders online at their website, www.superfastpizza.com. About 40 percent of Super Fast's Pizza orders are made online, Scott says. They operate from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.

How It Works

The pizzas are pre-made at a commissary outside the town of Fond du Lac. To keep these pizzerias on wheels simple, Scott offers ten types of 12-inch pizza: pepperoni, sausage, sausage and pepperoni, sausage and mushroom, deluxe, bacon cheeseburger, garlic butter and sausage, five-cheese, four-meat, veggie, and a pizza of the month. They only sell medium pies, which are all sold at the same price $8.99 for the first, and $5.99 for up to three more. They run a special of five pizzas for $29.95. On a busy Friday or Saturday, they are selling a couple hundred pizzas, Scott says.

The pizzas are stored in a refrigerated cooler which is onboard the van. The order comes in via the call center or the website to a wireless Internet based POS system in the vans. The driver, who is also the cook, places the pies in the ovens. The pizzas cook in six to nine minutes at 600 degrees.

Scott has six employees working for him, with two working each shift. They complete the entire order from start to finish. When the order comes in the driver puts the pizza in the oven, finds the address on the map of the city, and heads there. By the time the driver is there, the pizza is done or close to it. They box it up and get to the door in around 15 minutes, Scott says. Many times they make it to the house before an order is ready. They will park and start on the next order while the pizzas finish baking. When one driver gets backed up or held up in some way, they can defer the order to the other driver.

By having two vans on the streets of Fond du Lac, a city of 42,000, Scott has his company's name in front of people all the time. "Sometimes, we'll get an order from someone driving along behind us," Scott says.

As I mentioned earlier, Scott gets about 40 percent of his orders online. He really markets around placing it online. For instance, when customers order online they get a free Pepsi product per pizza ordered. When they order again online, Scott gives them a $2 discount for being a repeat customer. About 40 percent of his orders are from repeat customers. Scott's also partnered with a dessert company to get customers ordering again. They supply him with full-color coupons, and he gives away their desserts to customers who order for the second time.

Scott says he was hungry for a pizza about a year ago, but didn't want to wait an hour to get it. He wrote the idea down on a post-it note and incorporated the business two weeks later. He says he's started the marketing process slowly because he's "tried to keep a fairly low profile while he works out all the details." They have inserted their full-color menus in the local newspaper a couple of times. "That has gotten lots of people to try us out," Scott says. "Then we dazzle them with our fast delivery. Soon, we will begin more extensive advertising."

Scott's concept has made international news in recent months, and because of this he's had tons of interest from investors and franchising. He's had interest from places as far away as Southeast Asia. "If it can work here, it can work anywhere," Scott says. Right now he's weighing his options and deciding how to move the business forward.