Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria is Food On Demand’s next Outstanding Operator.

Since its inception, the pizza chain has continued modernizing operations, staying up-to-date with trends in consumer behavior and off-premises ordering.

As East Coast natives, co-founders Peter Cooperstein and Mike Forter wanted to bring high-quality, New York-style pizza to Northern California.

The duo opened the first Amici’s in San Mateo in 1987, serving brick oven pizzas, with made-from-scratch dough and sauce—the same recipes used today.

Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria co-founder, CEO Peter Cooperstein.

With the intention to set the brand apart from fast-casual pizza brands, Amici’s originally focused on in-person dining and upscale formats. But over time, the company honed in on delivery and takeout, “as the younger generation prefers convenient options,” said Cooperstein.

“About seven to 10 years ago we used to really fill up,” said Cooperstein on in-person dining. But adds that changed as consumer habits shifted towards at-home convenience, accelerated by the pandemic.

Downsizing strategy 

This led the chain to strategically downsize its larger restaurants, as well as move into ghost kitchens.

“It doesn’t make sense to have these high rent [locations] and large dining rooms when more and more business was going to takeout and delivery,” said Cooperstein.

Amici’s opened its first ghost kitchen in 2019, just six months before the pandemic forced doors to temporarily shutter.

“A lucky move for us,” said Cooperstein—as it allowed the brand to delve further into delivery.

Today, Amici’s has nine brick-and-mortar locations and three ghost kitchens through CloudKitchens.

The chain utilizes in-house drivers as well as the major third-party providers. Despite leveraging delivery companies like DoorDash, the company prefers to use its own drivers when possible.

“Our drivers take one delivery at a time, they’re trained on our food so there’s fewer mistakes, and they always use a warmer bag,” said Cooperstein.

“Besides controlling or owning the customer, one of the most important things for us is that the customer will have a better experience and be more likely to order from us again when they go directly from us,” said Cooperstein.

However, he says the brand acknowledges the importance of being seen on third-party marketplaces,—adding that, “people are very loyal to their apps.”

In-house virtual brands boost discoverability 

The need to boost discoverability on third-party marketplaces, eventually led Amici’s to launch in-house virtual brands.

“We realized people were ordering much more on third-party apps, but we were only listed under pizza,” said Cooperstein.

“We are really proud of our pastas and salads,” he said. “But if somebody was browsing the UberEats app and said hey, we’re in the mood for pasta tonight, we wouldn’t show up.”

Amici’s began experimenting with virtual concepts so that its lesser-known offerings were presented when customers searched for pasta, salads, wings or gluten-free pizzas.

The chain now has five in-house virtual concepts, including brands Freddie Parker’s Pasta & Salad Shop and Gluten Free Pizza Garden.

“It’s not the majority of our business,” said Cooperstein. “But in these times, any customer, any new sales you can get are fantastic, and we have loyal customers to those brands.”

Amici’s has also placed significant emphasis on its app and loyalty program. The brand launched a new app last year that aids in owning customer data and remarketing.  Amici’s loyalty program has grown 100%, offering customers discounts and incentives for ordering directly.

The pizza hub also adds postcards inside the bags of third-party delivery orders to attract returning customers. The postcards contain QR codes informing consumers to sign up for the loyalty program and receive points for free items.

In addition, Cooperstein adds he monitors all customer feedback, and makes sure to respond and address any customer concern.

Looking ahead, Amici’s has eyes set on further expansion. Cooperstein says the biggest focus is opening its new locations which includes a downsized brick-and-mortar location in Mountain View, CA, as well as two new ghost kitchens.

The Outstanding Operators Program is highlighting 20 innovative brands taking creative paths to success with all things off-premises. Winners receive a $1000 charitable donation to the organization of choice and will be recognized on-stage at the 2024 Food On Demand Conference. Register today!

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