Smokin’ Oak Wood Fired Pizza & Taproom Combines 2 Perennial Favorites | 1 on 1 with Pizza Leadership

What goes better with pizza than beer? At Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza and Taproom, customers can enjoy both with a self-serve bar designed to give customers a quick taste or an entire pint.

| by Mandy Wolf Detwiler — editor-in-chief, Networld Media Group

Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap Room combines two perennial favorites – pizza and beer – in a way that’s new to the market and helps the brand stand out in a crowded field.

Linda Black started the business in Rochester, Minnesota as Pi Wood-Fired Pizza in 2009. Black developed the restaurant’s menu, concept, and operations. Meanwhile, Matt Mongoven had worked in London in banking before returning home to the United States. They thought expanding the Black’s pizza concept would be a great opportunity, so they created the Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom brand and opened the first franchised unit in 2017.

Matt Mongoven, CEO of Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza & Taproom

There are five Smokin’ Oak Pizzerias open with five more expected to open within the next four months. Smokin’ Oak is inspired by Pi Wood Fired Pizza, but the two remain separate entities. Four of the five are franchised, with one unit owned by the company.

Company executives had all the paperwork needed for the franchise in order early on and had worked on employee training prior to the franchise, a move that Mongoven said took 12 months. They documented each part of the restoration process by working with an outside consultant with franchising expectations.

“We felt really comfortable that even with one location, we had a concept and menu that was replicable in other markets,” Mongoven said in a phone interview. He acts as CEO of the company.

On the menu

The menu is simple: a few starters, three salads, 12 signature pizzas (of course, customers can make their own) and a handful of desserts.

The dough and most of the sauces are homemade. Vegetables are chopped throughout the day, “and it’s not just a marketing trick,” Mongoven said. “In fact, we bring all of our vegetables whole and chop them at the restaurant. We even take the corn on the cob out and shuck it.”

Many meats – like chicken, chorizo ​​and sausages – are roasted in a wood-fired oven early in the morning, “and it’s that kind of care that goes into the freshness of the food we have,” he said. Mongolian. “We don’t have freezers in our restaurants. We just believe that with fresh food and great care in how we prepare that food, the customer will be able to taste the difference.”

There are 12 signature pizzas, including the fan-favorite classic with oven-roasted Italian sausage, sliced ​​fresh pepperoni, cremini mushrooms, red onion, and topped with freshly shredded mozzarella. A Buffalo Chicken Pizza is topped with oven roasted chicken, banana peppers, homemade blue cheese dressing, raspberry sauce and green onions.

The dough was designed for the wood-fired oven and can be used not only for pizza and garlic cheese bread, but also for wood-fired apple pie and cinnamon knots on the menu. desserts. The wood-fired oven is the only cooking utensil in restaurants. There are no fryers, microwaves, ovens or freezers.

“What’s important to us is really simplicity for our franchisees,” Mongoven said. “If they can master our menu items, they can replicate it, and they can teach their team members to do a fantastic job. At the end of the day, our menu is tight, but we do it well.”

Smokin’ Oak doesn’t use a curator, so they’re building on a solid base with their national food supplier supplying batter packets, for example, so the batter is the same in Grand Junction, Colorado, than in Omaha, Nebraska. Having good relationships with their franchisees, and franchisees in turn with their staff, ensures consistency across the brand.


And then there is the tavern.

“As we started to expand the concept, I really fell in love with the idea of ​​self-service taps. It really is such a cool concept,” Mongoven said. The number of taps on the wall depends on the size of the restaurant.

Here’s how it works: A guest goes through the fast casual queue and orders food. The cashier asks if he would like to use the dining room wall. The guest is then given an RFID-enabled wristband and then proceeds to the dining room wall, which has 25-45 taps. The guest can sip a craft beer, cocktail or wine in as little as a tasting or up to a full glass by tapping their wristband on a sensor.

“It’s great for the guest who wants to try maybe an ounce of something to see if they like it, or if they know they like that beer, they can have a whole pint,” said Mongoven said. “What we found was that it really improved the whole customer experience because we pair our great wood-fired pizza with our great customer service and great environment, but then you (add) this concept of fun, family and friends on the wall of the tap room.It really creates a cool atmosphere.

They opted for quick and relaxed service rather than full service to allow the customer to set the pace of their dining experience.

“It’s fantastic for the person who’s on a lunch break (and) has 20 minutes, and wants a pizza and a soda,” Mongoven said. “They can get it for $13, $14. Instead of going to a fast food restaurant, they can get into a great environment. … They’re having an experience for the same price as going through a service at flying in a fast food restaurant.”

Technology also plays an important role in overall operations. They have a comprehensive intranet system that houses everything from user manuals to branded how-to videos that teach employees how to cut, say, chicken into even pieces and ensure there’s consistency. in every bite.

Expansion plans

Now that the systems are in place and the franchise has started, the brand is ready for large-scale growth. Over the next six months, new Smokin’ Oaks will open in Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, and a second unit in Grand Junction, Colorado. The brand also recently signed a deal for Dallas, Texas.

Smokin’ Oak uses developer groups to market the company’s franchise and uses SEO for organic franchise lead generation.

Mongoven calls Smokin’ Oak a “niche” market for those looking to enter the fast-casual pizza space.

“It’s wood-fired pizza, but when you pair it with the self-service dining area, it creates an exponential customer experience,” he added.