Saturday, February 24, 2018
Business

Papa Murphy's brings take-and-bake pizza to Tampa Bay area?

Let's ponder our pizza choices.

There's thin crust or thick. Flatbread and fold up. Gas, wood or coal-fired oven. From Domino's delivered to DiGiorno from the freezer.

And now, newcomer Papa Murphy's. They make it. You bake it.

At first blush, this other Papa pizza sounds like a flimsy franchised business proposition. No delivery. No oven. No freezer. Customers must cook their fresh-made meal for 20 minutes within two nights because it should not be frozen.

Stores, which at $250,000 cost less to launch than a Subway, are a simple pizza assembly line. Yet a steady stream of customers Saturday flowed in to the first bay area Papa Murphy's at 8402 Little Road near Port Richey.

Papa Murphy's is by far the biggest player with 1,300 stores in 37 states, but it hardly has the take-and-bake market to itself. A few rivals with ovens offer the option. Walmart sells prepackaged but never frozen pizzas.

"But what our customers really love is the complete control over what they're eating," said Kevin King, chief development officer of the Vancouver, Wash., chain that sold $700 million in take-home pizzas in 2011. He sees six or more new stores in the bay area annually.

Customers pick from 20 toppings and guide construction up close. Choices include four sauces, three fresh-shredded cheeses, five meats, three types of onions plus artichoke hearts, garlic or zucchini.

A standard family-size packs a pound of cheese. The stuffed five-meat special tips the scales at 5 pounds.

Because it's not a cooked meal, purchases qualify for food stamps, which accounts for about 10 percent of sales.

Prices range from $9 for a one-topping family-size pizza to $13 for a five-meat stuffed pizza.

"I switched from Walmart because of the quality and the price," said Earl Moore, a Seven Springs retiree. "I fed my euchre club three family-size pizzas for less than $30 last week."

Jostling for Joe. With the first Trader Joe's in Florida set to open Thursday in part of an empty Borders bookstore in Naples, competition has heightened among cities eager to land the eclectic, New Age grocer's stores as a civic retail amenity. The Downtown Development Authority in West Palm Beach is filming the City Commission for a pitch and launched a "what would we trade for a Trader Joe's" contest. "Why they are going to Naples before us, I just don't understand," sniffed Mayor Jeri Muoio in the Palm Beach Post. No news on Trader Joe's in the bay area.

Games people play. Intel and video game producer Possible Worldwide built a prototype 12-foot touch-screen video game wall for HSN that offers a new type of physical selling presence for the St. Petersburg e-commerce company.

The game wall dispenses coupons to winners, accepts email addresses to dispatch product information and uses quick response codes to initiate online purchases. HSN is weighing how to deploy the unit, which will be used as a promotional rather than a sales tool for now. It may hit the food festivals or trade show circuit.

"I'd love to put one in the Orlando or Tampa airport," said Jill Braff, HSN executive vice president of digital content.

Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

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