August 10, 2023
Soft pretzels and pizza — two of the greatest comfort foods known to the Western diet — have merged into one "surprisingly incredible" pie now available at Philly Pretzel Factory's original Mayfair store.
That favorable review is the general consensus co-founder and CEO Dan DiZio said he's gotten from longtime customers at the soft pretzel shop he opened 25 years ago at 7366 Frankford Ave.
"We have a loyal fanbase there. What's nice about that is you get real, honest feedback," DiZio said. "Our regulars come in pretty much every day. When they tried this, we knew it was good. They didn't have to be shy or polite. They would have said stick with pretzels, but that's not what they're saying."
The new pretzel pizza, available plain or topped with pepperoni, was developed and tested over the last two years. It uses Philly Pretzel Factory flour as a pretzel-flavored base and doesn't compromise the pizza taste customers want, DiZio explained. All of the pies are hand-tossed and made 12 inches, since they tend to bake better at that size for a crispy, thin-crust style of pizza.
"You see these other competitors make pretzel pizza. Sometimes they're just putting corn syrup on it with some salt to make it look like a pretzel and get the color, but it's not really that pretzel flavor you're used to when you get a pretzel," DiZio said. "That's the difference here. We wanted something unique, not just to get into the pizza category. I'm really proud of it."
DiZio and co-founder Len Lehman have grown Philly Pretzel Factory into a national brand with 170 locations, most of them franchises. During and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the company noticed changes in customer habits. More people were using delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub. More customers were coming in during the early to mid-afternoon, on top of the early morning rush. There was room to experiment and evolve.
"We didn't have as many lunch and dinner items. I think this pretzel pizza really lets us expand on that," DiZio said. "We already had a pepperoni melt, which is like a log, but it wasn't really a true pizza."
The company is hoping to reinvigorate the brand with its pretzel pizza and other new products that it is testing.
For now, pretzel pizzas are only available at the Mayfair shop — which is a corporate store — and one franchise location in Virginia Beach. Pretzel pizzas can be ordered and delivered using DoorDash and other participating apps.
In the coming weeks, the pretzel pies will be available at more locations. The goal is to roll them out at all stores by late fall of this year.
DiZio said the approach is deliberate because he wants Philly Pretzel Factory to avoid the pitfalls of other chains, which he thinks settle too often for mediocre products.
"When you have a chain, you're trying to come up with simple. And simple to make. But when you do it that simple, the product suffers," DiZio said. "We didn't want that, even if it's more work. Just like pretzels. We make them from scratch every day."
Still, DiZio knows the quality of Philly Pretzel Factory's food has to withstand the opinionated scrutiny customers everywhere tend to have when it comes to pizza. It's a saturated and competitive space. If the pretzel pizza can make it in Philly, DiZio feels pretty confident it will be a success elsewhere.
"In Philadelphia and surrounding areas in New Jersey, people know pizza, right?" he said. "You can't come out and have a lousy pizza. We have great pretzels. We better have some great pizza."