Through booms and busts, Pizza Inn has continued to innovate, even as its parent company has expanded into the fast-casual segment.
Pizza Inn has come a long way since Joe Spillman opened his first location in 1958 across from the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas. But the road has been a pretty rough one. The pizzeria proved immediately successful and had already expanded into other locations when franchising began in 1963; aggressive growth accelerated in the late ’60s, and by the ’80s there were nearly 800 Pizza Inns in the United States. But when Spillman sold the company in the 1980s, overreaching debts caused Pizza Inn to fall into bankruptcy, which it eventually emerged from in 1991, becoming publicly traded in 1994.
Today, more than 300 locations still stand in 15 states and several foreign countries, but Pizza Inn Holdings changed its name to Rave Restaurant Group in 2015. Now the company is one of the fastest-growing leaders in the fast-casual pizza space, thanks to its Pie Five concept.
“One of the great attributes of our brand has been that, although we’ve struggled in areas, we didn’t let the product suffer in the process,” former CEO and president Charlie Morrison told PMQ Pizza Magazine in 2011. “That’s kept the brand around for such a long time.” With three types of stores—buffet/dine-in, a delivery/carryout operation and an express—the company also evolved to encompass a range of concepts.
Morrison pointed to several Pizza Inn innovations over the years: in specialty pizzas (such as the bacon cheeseburger pizza in the ’90s), the pizza buffet concept (Pizza Inn began buffets in the late ’60s), and the “pizzert,” a pizza-style dessert introduced in 1986.
By Tracy Morin