Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria, the only create-your-own, hand crafted pizzeria concept of its kind with a World Pizza Champion at the helm, has signed a five-unit deal for Houston. This marks the brand’s first franchise development agreement in the state of Texas.
The new Persona locations in Houston will be owned and operated by Spicy Ketchup, LLC, a locally-based franchise group experienced with the Jimmy John’s brand. The group plans to open its first pizzeria by the Fall, with the remaining locations opening over the next four years.
“Our expansion into Texas is a major milestone for the brand as we continue to grow beyond our Santa Barbara roots,” said Glenn Cybulski, a World Pizza Champion and co-founder of Persona who also serves as company CEO. “We couldn’t be more excited about partnering with a group like Spicy Ketchup. There’s no doubt that their industry knowledge and experience, coupled with our truly authentic pizza offerings, will be of enormous value in helping us achieve greater market penetration and acceptance in the Houston area.”
Persona’s traditional Neapolitan-style pizza – about 12 inches in diameter – is modeled after the legendary pizzerias in Naples, where each pizza is truly hand crafted and made-to-order. In Chipotle-esque fashion, customers can choose from over 30 toppings before their custom creations are baked in an imported wood-fired oven for only 90 seconds. There are also fixed-price specialty pizzas to choose from, based on Cybulski’s award-winning recipes.
All the pizzas are crafted from 00 flour and Italian tomatoes, combined with locally sourced fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses. The meatballs, sausage, sauces and salad dressings, all made on-site, have won gold medal acclaim nationally and internationally.
“We were initially impressed with the company’s operations and experienced executive team, but it wasn’t until we tried the pizza that we were completely sold,” said Dan Stansel, one of Spicy Ketchup’s managing partners, noting that the group considered several other emerging brands before deciding that Persona had the most potential for becoming what they believe will be the next big brand in the fast-casual pizza industry. “Persona presents us with a unique opportunity to get in on the ground level of a promising – and ultimately hugely successful – franchise.”
Persona launched its national franchising program last year and plans to reach 200 locations within five years. Its first franchised location is scheduled to open in Santa Rosa, California in May, and other development agreements include a 20-unit deal in South Florida and three units in South Carolina.