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  • Writer's pictureRMD Advertising

Dewey's Pizza's focuses on values, tight operations

Dewey's Pizza operates 25 stores as far west as Kansas City. The brand's has tight operations and an eye on its values to make it a success.

Mandy Wolf Detwiler — Managing Editor, Networld Media Group

Regional pizza chains are the bread and butter of the industry, with clusters of 10, 15 and 25 stores dotting the pizza landscape. Cincinnati-based Dewey's Pizza is no exception. The brand was founded in 1998 when Andrew DeWitt moved back to his hometown and started a pizza company.

The first Dewey's Pizza opened in Oakley, a suburb of Cincinnati. DeWitt's nickname growing up was "Dewey" and it made for a great pizzeria name. Today, the brand operates 25 company-owned pizzerias as far west as Kansas City, with stores in Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Western Illinois.

The restaurants are all company owned with no franchising.

"Initially, the vision of the company was to be a little more of a carryout and delivery option, and the first actually opened with paper plates," Chuck Lipp, CEO and president of Dewey's Pizza, told Pizza Marketplace. "We have definitely put a lot more care into curating a great experience for the dine-in consumer. We offer great craft beers. We offer a small but mighty wine list with very curated offerings there, and we've just started to do cocktails at one of our new locations."

Lipp said he's seen a transition to off-premise dining as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they're embracing that now. The business has been refined and Dewey's has better offerings for consumers than in the past.

The brand opened its second store in 2001. "We definitely had some growing pains going from one to two" stores, Lipp said, "and then even two to three because we did those in rapid succession."

The second store was almost double the size of the original Dewey's Pizza. They didn't have enough kitchen space and doubled the size of the seating capacity. "We learned a lot from that second iteration of the brand," Lipp added.

On The Menu

Aside from traditional cheese and pepperoni, The Bronx Bomber is a fan favorite. It's topped with a red sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, onions, green peppers and black olives. The Edgar Allan Poe, with olive oil, mozz, fontina, mushrooms, whole roasted garlic, kalamata olives, goat cheese and tomatoes and parsley added after the bake is also popular, as is the Green Lantern, which is topped with a red sauce, mozz, minced garlic, mushrooms, goat cheese artichokes and pesto.

Six to eight seasonal pizzas are rotated throughout the year. The taco-flavored Tito Santana a seasonal favorite. Salads are also big movers at Dewey's, and the brand offers seasonal salads as well.

Dough is made fresh every day at a centralized commissary and delivered daily. There are two commissaries that service the restaurants – one in St. Louis and another in Cincinnati. Dough is made locally in Kansas City and Cleveland. The crust is slightly thicker than a New York crust. "It stands up a little better to the specialty pizzas and the number of ingredients we put on our pizzas," Lipp added.

Other ingredients are produced in-house, such as cutting vegetables and making salad dressings, A small, local manufacturer makes the sausage for the brand, and they've used the same proprietary cheese since they first opened.

"When we talk about product, we look at quality first, deliverability second and the price third," Lipp said. "We're not all price driven. We're definitely looking for quality Number One."

The brand has used several ovens, including Baker's Pride decks, until about three years ago when it switched to Hot Rocks ovens at new locations. Those give the pizza a hearth-baked crust.

Lipp estimates that 75% of sales is pizza-based, with 10% beer and wine sales.


Dewey's prides itself on a strong culture and commitment to its values, which were created by a team of 30 employees. Dewey's likes to place its stores in neighborhoods in which they can become ingrained, including partnerships with school and community organizations. There are no urban downtown locations.

"We have a strong commitment to our purpose and values," Lipp said. "We don't have them on our walls in our restaurants, but we use them to make all of our decisions. We have spent a lot of time and effort and money to get them right."

How does the company maintain quality across the brand as it grows farther from Cincinnati? There is a strong operational leadership team and operating partners in all their markets. "There's somebody in that market that's ensuring the quality and consistency," Lipp said. "We have great training materials and a great way of distributing them, and then we have a fair amount of meetings to ensure that everybody understands the expectations."

The brand has a director of operations who travels to the restaurants and checks on the quality of the food, the consistency and the training.

Lipp said Dewey's people are what set it apart from the brand's competition. "We invest a lot of time in interviewing and hiring great people," he said, "and then we spend the time to ensure they're trained correctly and we don't just throw them on the floor or throw them in a restaurant."

Lipp added that Dewey's trains managers twice as long as other restaurant brands, with four to five months of training for someone entering the company. There is less training for someone moving up from the inside.

Like other operators, Lipp admits it has been a challenge to find great people, but they're learning what it takes to find and keep employees.

The company's biggest challenge, however, has been ensuring they have the right technology to meet the changing needs of both employees and consumers, "and changing in a way that is digestible," Lipp added. "We've all been through so much change — good change, I think as well. Over the past few years, there's been a lot of things thrown at people, so there's a little bit of fatigue. How do we keep our teams from getting fatigued with the rapid pace of change/improvement that's been going on in the business?"

Change has come not only with an improved tech stack but also with the majority of business going from dine-in to off-premises as a result of the pandemic. Making a connection with the consumer is more challenging with a shorter amount of face time for the employees as guests pick up their orders instead of dining in.

Future Plans

Dewey's Pizza plans to open two to three stores a year for the foreseeable future, fleshing out current markets. One restaurant is expected to open in the first quarter of 2024 in Union, Kentucky. They're looking at other sites in St. Louis as well.

"From a geographic standpoint, we think we can do that in our current markets," Lipp said. "We're not against jumping out of our currently markets, but right now we think we can fill in our current markets."

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