STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — Hideaway Pizza general manager Kevin Taylor has met several new faces at the company's first non-Oklahoma store.
He said people are always surprised to hear the company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and there are 16 locations in the Sooner State, The Journal Record (http://bit.ly/2mDJE2C ) reported.
"I hear a lot of 'We thought this was a little jump-start place,'" he said.
The company opened its first Arkansas store in October. He said the business has been slower than he expected. Crossing state lines meant the Stillwater nostalgia was gone.
"When we open one in Oklahoma, everyone knows who we are," he said. "We were really busy around the holidays, but it's slowed down."
Co-owner Brett Murphy said the company has to look for high-traffic locations since there's no name recognition. In North Little Rock, the store is near McCain Mall and faces US-67/167. A Conway store will open this fall in a shopping center along Interstate 40. The center's other tenants are a Sam's Club and Academy Sports + Outdoors.
"We need a place with a high population during lunch and a good demographic in the evening to support our pickup business," Murphy said. "We want a good family neighborhood. We'll even look at restaurant rows in certain centers."
Murphy said about four years ago, he and co-owner Darren Lister started traveling to neighboring states, trying to figure out where to open more Hideaway stores. They visited Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas, and the Razorback State was their favorite.
"Right now, it's considered an Oklahoma brand, and we're proud of that," he said. "We have to prove it will work outside Oklahoma. So far, North Little Rock has come through."
Murphy said he and Lister aren't ready to think about franchising.
"I doubt very seriously that we'll ever franchise," he said. "We would be running our own stores and serving a franchise. We're big believers of doing one thing right."
But it's a little easier to operate stores in Oklahoma than it is to oversee a store about five hours from the office. Murphy said the company has taken a better-safe-than-sorry approach. Hideaway moved three managers to North Little Rock and hired three Arkansans. Taylor will eventually serve as the district manager once the Conway and other central Arkansas stores open.
The food part was almost the easiest component in moving outside Oklahoma. Hideaway uses Ben E. Keith Foods, and from the Oklahoma City office, the distributor also travels to Arkansas, Texas, and Kansas.
With more territory to cover, Hideaway is increasing its growth plan from two new stores annually to three stores. Those restaurants will be in Arkansas, Oklahoma, west Texas or Kansas.
Murphy said the growth plan can be scaled back if needed.
"There are two things we pay attention to — cash flow and staying within our management abilities," he said. "If we ever get too thin on our management, we'll slow down our growth."
Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com