Currently consisting of seven locations including one in Costa Mesa, Pitfire Artisan Pizza has produced rustic, fire-singed pizzas since 1997. After its first location opened in North Hollywood, the restaurant company looked for real estate opportunities. “We don’t take typical restaurant spaces. We just have to be ready to go when the spaces we want open up,” says Pitfire’s owner and founder Paul Hibler.
“We look for the heart and soul of location, find the community and learn what they are all about,” Hibler says about each opening of a new Pitfire. In addition to demographic research, he says, “We have people getting to know our neighbors and visiting all the successful places in the area.”
The menu is kept consistent from location to location, but other changes have been made with each new Pitfire. “The first one was handmade, aka designed and built ourselves,” Hibler explains, “With the second one, we worked with a restaurant architect, but realized that wasn’t for us. For our third location, we started working with cutting edge designers in order to bring out more of the unique Pitfire brand.” He builds from scratch whenever possible.
Careful to stay true to his vision of handcrafted cuisine, the pace has not been rushed. “There is always the temptation to make it bigger, but that doesn’t make it better in our case,” he says.
Hibler believes opening the second location is the hardest because the owner can’t be everywhere all the time. On his concern to maintain consistency and quality, “We try to grow our staff and develop management as we add more locations,” he says. And he personally involves himself in each operation during the first few months of its opening.
Even after several successful openings, the unexpected still occurs. A long delay took place before the Mar Vista location opened, greatly fueling anticipation. The experience shows how even a good thing can become a challenge. “We started off so busy and with large families and kids running around. We didn’t know how to deal with it because it wasn’t something we had seen before,” Hibler admits. “It’s a whole different set of restaurant rules to take care of parents and children. Since then we have figured out how to make everyone happy.”
Pitfire Artisan Pizza is part of our series highlighting restaurant groups and chains founded and flourishing in Orange County that were featured in the May|June 2013 print issue of Great Taste Magazine. Click here for the entire article.