Pizza Patron's newest product is distressing some franchisees, who fear the frozen pizza line will cut into their sales.
"I'd say a number of them are concerned," concedes brand director Andrew Gamm. "But it's a great opportunity for the brand."
Pizza Patron frozen pizzas are now available in El Rancho markets around Dallas, and Gamm says the Dallas-based pizza chain plans to have its pies in grocery and convenience stores nationwide as early as next year. A frozen 11-inch Mexicana pizza with chorizo, ground beef, onions, jalapenos and green peppers sells for $4.99, about $1 cheaper than a medium Mexicana purchased at a Pizza Patron store.
The frozen pizza has a "thinner, crispier profile than our store product" so it's better-suited to home ovens, Gamm says.
Few national pizza chains have released frozen pizzas, presumably because restaurants are wary of "cannibalizing their business," as Gamm puts it. The most visible exception is California Pizza Kitchen, which partnered with Kraft in 1999 to launch frozen versions of its nouvelle pies. The CPK line went national in 2004, a move analysts say raised the brand's profile and helped the restaurant weather the recession.
"Customers don't always want to buy a made pizza," Gamm says.
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But Pizza Patron is hoping that when customers do pop for a prepared pizza, they'll go Patron. Since shipping frozen pizzas is far more economical than opening new stores, the product line's seen as a sensible way for the 100-store chain to introduce itself to potential customers in advance of a retail outlet's arrival.
"We have an opportunity to develop more brand awareness for our company," Gamm says.
Gamm says the frozen pizzas will also allow Patron to tap an undeveloped market: While the vast majority of Hispanic households have microwaves, few use them for thawing pizzas.
"We have a unique opportunity because Hispanics aren't as accustomed to frozen pizzas," Gamm says. "We've got an opportunity to grow that segment."