Chris Doody is busy planning the next two years of growth for his Piada Italian Street Food chain, dubbed a "hot concept" and "breakout brand" by a trade publication this year. The Columbus restaurant entrepreneur expects to add nine or 10 Piada locations in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Carmel, Ind., this year.
Chris Doody is busy planning the next two years of growth for his Piada Italian Street Food chain, dubbed a “hot concept” and “breakout brand” by a trade publication this year.
The Columbus restaurant entrepreneur expects to add nine or 10 Piada locations in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Carmel, Ind., this year.
The chain’s name comes from the Italian flatbread that is the restaurant’s signature dish.
The planned growth spurt would double the number of restaurants, including eight in central Ohio, that the company has opened since 2010. “We’ll have 20 by the end of the year,” said Doody, who also plans to start a catering business this year.
Next year, Doody plans to take Piada to Michigan and Pennsylvania and add to its Indiana presence. He also plans to venture outside the Midwest.
“We have sites that we’re looking (at) in Texas,” he said. “Our growth strategy is evolving. We want to build the leading fast-casual Italian company in the country.”
Piada has been compared with fast-casual darling Chipotle. In both concepts, customers go through a line to choose and assemble their meals.
A piada starts at a stone griddle on which Italian flatbread is quickly baked, then filled with the diner’s choice of meats, vegetables, sauces and toppings. Salads and pasta dishes are similarly assembled.
“The most-exciting thing is, the food that we’re serving is fresh, and the people love it,” Doody said.
A week ago, trade publication Nation’s Restaurant News gave Piada one of five Hot Concepts awards.
“Hot Concepts recognizes forward-thinking companies that are at the leading edge of food service and show potential for growth,” the publication said in a written statement.
In January, Restaurant News profiled Piada in its annual report on breakout brands.
“It’s flattering to be recognized nationally as an emerging brand, and for the company to receive the 2013 Hot Concepts award is a big deal,” Doody said.
Doody already has two successful concepts under his belt: Brio Tuscan Grille and Bravo Cucina Italiana, both part of Bravo Brio Restaurant Group in Columbus. Doody and his brother, Rick Doody, won the Hot Concepts award in 2002 for Brio.
Piada was a winner early in the eyes of Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food-service strategies at WD Partners, a restaurant consulting firm in Columbus.
“When I walked into his first unit, which had just opened, I commented to someone who was with me, ‘This is like watching somebody bowl a game and score 298 points out of 300,’??” Lombardi recalled.
The management analyst likes the “theater” of going to Piada: the colors of the ingredients, the process of assembling the food.
“I think (Doody’s) done an outstanding job creating a customer-centric, very high-potential brand,” Lombardi said.