Nat Getchell Interview
(Portland Pie Co.)
When you’re recognized as one of the best pizza restaurants in the United States, you know you have something special to offer.
And Portland Pie Co. has something special to offer.
Owner Nat Getchell spoke with us about his business.
Q – Nat, since Parade Magazine spotlighted your restaurant, how has that impacted business?
A – Our numbers are up. We do pretty extensive marketing and advertising. We have 5 restaurants, 2 in New Hampshire and 3 in Maine. So, there’s a variety of reasons why are sales are up. I’m sure that’s contributed to it.
Q – You must have a lot of pizza lovers in Maine!
A – Yes.
Q – You opened Portland Pie Co. in 1997?
A – Yes.
Q – What were you doing before that?
A – I worked for a micro brewery Shipyard Brewing Co. as a sales rep.
Q – So, how did you know Portland would be receptive to your pizza?
A – My marketing and research basically. I was in the beer business and the coffee business and the bread business. Very popular industries. Basically what’s happened in those industries is it’s gone to line extensions. So, coffee for example you used to be able to get Regular and Decaf. Now, you can get French Vanilla or Hazelnut because there’s so much demand for that. So, I did the research on the pizza industry. We felt that the pizza dough component of the pizza can go to line extensions. So, are niche is flavored pizza dough. So, we have garlic, beer, wheat, basil. When you call our pizza place you can order whatever you’re ordering for a pizza with a flavor of crust. That’s how I determined I could differentiate my restaurants from other pizza restaurants.
Q – Is there in fact a lot of competition for you in Portland?
A – Yeah.
Q – Being a pizzeria and a pub means you can actually dine in as well as take-out?
A – Yes. Our restaurants go from 100 -150 seats depending on what restaurant you’re in.
Q – You’re putting in 11 hour days in this business?
A – Yeah. We’re definitely in the development side of it now. We just opened our 5th restaurant. We’re working on our 6th right now in Redding, Massachusetts. So, it’s just on the development, the evolution of our brand is really what I work on.
Q – When you’re putting that much time into your work, it really doesn’t leave much time for anything else does it?
A – You never really set it down. But, I have a management co. So, we basically have 5 positions in that management co. – Operations, Marketing And Advertising, HR (Human Resources), IT and Finance. I have people in all of those positions that oversee all the restaurants. They basically manage day-to-day operations for all the existing restaurants.
Q – Even so, how do you maintain quality control when you have multiple restaurants in different locations?
A – We have general managers in each location. Each of those departments in the management co. which is outside the restaurant goes in and audits the restaurant every month. They basically go in with Marketing and Advertising for example and audit the restaurant. Maybe the dining room is a little bit slower or maybe the delivery part of it is a little bit slower, so they’ll actually develop a strategy for each particular restaurant to make sure that its needs are getting met.
Q – Is that your own sauce that you use on the pizza?
A – No. We contract that through Neil Jones out of California, It’s a private label.
Q – How big do you want to see Portland Pie Co. get?
A – We’re trying to get anywhere from 20 to 30 stores.
Q – All over the Northeast?
A – Yes. I’m considering looking at Florida. A lot of people from the Northeast go to Florida so I believe the brand would be recognized down there. We also have a manufacturing co. that makes our pizza dough and sell it through grocery store chains and food service cos.
Q – Why did you call your business Portland Pie Co. as opposed to Portland Pizza Co.?
A – I just wanted to differentiate ourselves and it had a nice ring to it with a p in Portland and Pie. I always look at two things when we’re working on stuff, obviously execution and consistency, but also trying to differentiate yourself. When we went to Manchester, New Hampshire and Nashua, New Hampshire, we still call it Portland Pie Co. We’re not going to call it something else when we’re out of state. It helps us stick out.
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