Todd McGregor is the CEO of Brisbane pizza sensation New York Slice.
Beginning in sales and working his way up to managing director of several multinational corporations, Todd was highly experienced to take on the management of bringing American-style pizza to Australia.
But when it came to the world of hospitality, Todd was a relative 'newcomer' to the industry - a characteristic that ruled in his favour. His business-oriented background gave him fresh eyes to assess a situation bursting with opportunity, and with his help, New York Slice has seen remarkable growth.
We sat down with Todd to talk about the New York Slice franchise, and his predictions for the fast food industry as a whole.
Todd has managed the New York Slice brand in Brisbane for three years. During this time, he has seen the fast food industry grow and change, and has worked hard to make sure his brand adapts to the new environment.
The biggest change he has noticed in this time is the rise of the 'fast casual' fare: high quality food, prepared and served in a cheap, fast, convenient environment.
"In the U.S. they refer to this as the 'Better' offering," explains Todd, "whereby the customer gets a better, higher quality product than the fast food version - but it isn't expensive, and doesn't require the long time commitment like a traditional restaurant."
In Australia, he notes, the general population have begun to move in a similar direction, opting for 'better quality' takeaway food. Yes, we are still opting for burgers, Mexican, ice-cream, pizza, and other fast food categories, but we want a higher quality offering than the standard takeaway stores.
For this reason, New York Slice introduced their version of a gourmet, self-designed pizza range called 'Craft Pizza'. It's personalised, super fresh, and trend-driven.
"We are the first to bring the 'Better Pizzas' concept en masse as we roll out of Australia's first 'Build your Own' Pizza stores, which we simply call Craft Pizza," says Todd.
"With our new business model, our customer is in complete control of a high quality menu and it's served fast - fired and fresh in under three minutes - all at reasonable prices."
New York Slice - Craft Pizza
It's fair to say that Todd knows what the people want (we're already sold!).
And little wonder. Todd's history lies in sales: his first role was with a telecommunications company back in 1991, where he spent two years as their Sales Manager for NSW. Although he went on to work in senior management for various other companies, he never lost his passion for driving growth from the grassroots level.
For this reason, he is constantly searching for new ways to expand within the already congested fast food industry. His biggest focus for the year ahead? Delivery.
"There will always be a market for takeaway for convenience, but the real market opportunity is in delivery," he notes.
"In the past, delivery has almost exclusively been the preserve of fast food and the mature third party delivery businesses….Now restaurants and fast casual businesses alike are joining the throng where you can get high quality food delivered via third parties such as Menulog, Foodora, Uber Eats, and Deliveroo."
In fact, Todd believes that the fast food companies will continue to own this space, rather than their restaurant competitors who also supply via those channels.
"I don't believe the restaurant delivery version will work long term. You wouldn't be happy if the filet mignon that you paid $60 for showed up less than perfect!"
The sudden burst of fast food apps can be attributed to the fact that more Australians are eating out than ever before. According to Todd, this is because of the growing quality of the takeaway market; convenience is now matched with personalised and high quality food options.
"Now that there are more options in the fast casual/better space, people have naturally gravitated towards it," explains Todd.
"It isn't a big imposition on time or cost, and the offerings are high quality. We have seen many fine dining restaurants close their doors because of the overheads, but also because it's an occasional consideration, whereas you now have many fast casual choices across the spectrum of food."
It is fair to say that online ordering technology has given the fast food industry a massive bolster in terms of accessibility and sales. But does this then negate the need for great 'bricks and mortar' locations?
Not at all, says Todd. "Each business will find its natural place in terms of how and where they engage customers - be it in a shopping mall, street location, concession or online."
But he still notes the importance of focusing on both markets equally. "It should most likely be a mix of both physical and online," he says. "Back in the dot com days we referred to this a 'Clicks and Bricks' approach."
Behind the scenes, New York Slice is using technology for more than just customer ordering.
With 25 years in technology, Todd was quick to recognise how important it was to streamline the back-end of the New York Slice franchises, in order to focus on their customer-facing business.
"Each store we build provides our franchisees with access to real time store surveillance, live sales reporting, COGS, labour quotients and all of the other KPI's a quality business should have," explains Todd. "We also utilise a service that does all of the accounting, tax compliance and dashboard reporting, so we are very tech-savvy."
New York Slice CEO Todd McGregor
Part of this tech-savvy solution for Todd was also to streamline the set-up process for each of the 15 New York Slice franchises around the Brisbane area. Giving the franchise owners the opportunity to use Silver Chef for their set-up, he was able to save precious time with our online application system, and super-fast approval/installation turnaround.
"We have used Silver Chef successfully for equipment finance for some of our stores," says Todd.
"As they are specifically in the hospitality sector, they understand the suppliers, distribution and market dynamics already so it is an added bonus as most banks simply don't."
As part of the personalised Silver Chef solution, we worked with Todd and the New York Slice team to create a store-specific budget for the owners to work within.
"We have a preapproved limit in place as an accredited franchise system," explains Todd, "which helps our franchisees make decisions about investment easier when they are considering our franchise system."
With two decades in the business of profit management, the Silver Chef Advantage™ solution made sense to Todd; it gave the stores a chance to start turning over profit (6 months), before beginning the repayments.
"Silver Chef is a great option for anyone looking to preserve cash, which is obviously critical for any business," he notes. "Also, the fact that we can choose our own equipment suppliers is a huge benefit as other equipment finance companies will stipulate brand or even model, so Silver Chef is very flexible."
Looking forward to the future, Todd notes that the smaller, more nimble brands in the fast food industry will be the ones to succeed. The ability to adapt and change to the consumer audience is crucial, particularly in the trend-driven climate that we are currently experiencing.
"I believe that although some of the top tier fast food chains are changing up their offerings, some of them won't make it out of their slump," predicts Todd.
"The old adage of too big to fail is actually more akin to too big to change for some of them."
For the 15-store New York Slice chain, their offering is all about working towards what their customer wants.
"We started 14 years ago with a couple of points of difference – New York style pizza (thin crust, lightly topped) and massive pizzas sold by the slice," says Todd.
"We too saw the advent of fast casual coming and have pivoted our model to align with where the growth will be. In the U.S., the Build your Own pizza concept is the fastest growing pizza segment is beating the fast food pizza offerings to slow death."
Silver Chef is excited to work alongside New York Slice as they continue to go from strength to strength in the growing pizza market.