Chow Bella

Phoenix Does Not Need Another Pizza Concept!

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It wasn’t especially nice of me, but I couldn’t help myself. After reading a press release touting the latest in the endless parade of pizza franchises, I called the publicist listed on the release.

“Please tell me you’re kidding,” I begged.

She assured me she was not.

“But it says here that your client is revolutionizing the pizza industry by adding beer,” I said, with all the fake incredulity I could muster. “Your release reads, ‘In metro Phoenix, where fast-casual pizza places seem to be popping up on every street corner, how can a brand stand out from the crowd? The strategy at Blast & Brew is simple: just add beer.’”

Instead of pointing out that a complete sentence following a colon should always be capitalized, I stuttered, “What’s new about beer and pizza? Isn’t that like, I don’t know, milk and cookies?”

“Um,” she began. “So. It’s like they have a whole wall of like, craft beer that’s electronic?”

She seemed to be asking me if this were the case, but I didn’t know the answer. “You mean, the beer is electronic? Or the wall?” was all I could think to ask in reply.

“You get a wrist band,” she explained. “It’s self-pour craft beer. Forty different kinds.”

A-ha! It was, I suggested, the sheer number of beers that made Blast & Brew unique. And self-pour — that means the beer is all-you-can-drink? Because, you know, all-you-can-drink beer is certainly innovative!

But beer and pizza is hardly a new idea. In fact, it’s a practically universal pairing, like rice and beans or Astaire and Rogers.

“There are beer geniuses at Blast & Brew,” this probably very nice publicist explained, speaking very slowly. “And they help you pair your pizza and beer.”

After that, I stopped listening to what she was saying and began counting the number of times she inserted the word “like” randomly into her chatter (47 times). The idea of someone telling me which kind of beer would go best with a deep-dish pepperoni pie made my head hurt.

Maybe because they’re afraid someone will notice that they’re taking credit for an already established food-and-beverage pairing, Blast & Brew has invented a word to help make what they’re not doing for pizza look more special. “The concept is introducing a new dining category,” the release announces.

“‘Fasual’ – by capturing both on-the-go consumers, and guests who prefer the options of a casual dine-in restaurant.”

So I called the Lou Malnati’s on Camelback Road and Central Avenue. I asked the friendly woman who answered the phone if Lou Malnati’s was a casual dine-in pizza place that also offers to-go pizzas.

“We sure are!” she cheeped.

“Would you say that your restaurant is fasual?” I asked.

There was a brief pause. “I don’t know what that means,” she replied.

“Fair enough,” I told her. “One last question. Do people ever order beer with their pizza, at your restaurant?”

This time, the pause was longer.

“Are you kidding me?” the nice lady finally replied.

If this whole Blast & Brew thing sounds like the best thing since, well, a slice of pizza, and you have some cash to invest, you're in luck. The company is looking for "experienced franchisees to open locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale, Chandler, Tempe, Gilbert/Mesa, and Goodyear," according to its news release, which concludes, "Interested prospects should have restaurant or retail experience and the total investment to become a Blast & Brew franchisee ranges from $600,000 to $800,000. Blast & Brew locations require between 2,000 and 3,200 feet of retail space, with patio, dine-in, and carryout opportunities."

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela