Zeeks Pizza is expanding its franchise business and moving into new territories.
by Kat Zeman
Food doesn’t need to be complicated to taste good. But it needs to be fresh and contain quality ingredients. Seattle-based Zeeks Pizza has operated under this philosophy since its inception in 1993.
“Our values are simple, local and fresh,” President Dan Black says. “Craftsmanship is a big deal around here. Seattle is a great food town and its people are very demanding. Our values have allowed us to thrive.”
Zeeks Pizza has 13 locations in the greater Seattle area. During the next five years, it plans to increase that number to 35 to 50 locations and expand into western states like Colorado, Nevada, California and Idaho.
Five of the eatery’s 13 stores are franchises and that’s another growing part of its business. “We’re looking to expand our franchise business,” Black says. “In 2018, we will focus on the Northwest. Our target is to open five more franchises.”
Entrepreneurs wishing to open a Zeeks Pizza franchise must have at least $240,000 in liquid assets and a net worth of $1.2 million. The company charges a franchise fee of $35,000 per location. It also collects an ongoing royalty fee of 5 percent and a 2 percent marketing fund charge.
The eatery has three franchising concepts. These fees apply to its most popular pizza/pub concept. The average size of this concept restaurant/pub ranges between 3,200 and 3,800 square feet. Zeeks Pizza also offers a pickup/register service concept and delivery/catering.
When it comes to franchisee qualifications, the company is looking for entrepreneurs who are flexible, ambitious and experienced in running a successful business. “If they don’t have restaurant operation experience, we do ask that they bring on an operating partner that does have that experience,” Black says.
Zeeks Pizza was founded by two surfers, Tom Vial and Doug McClure, who wanted to escape the corporate world. While surfing in Maui, the duo claim to have tapped into an elemental truth about the universe when they met a surfer named “Zeek” who told them that “life is too short for crappy pizza,” according to the company website.
A few months after returning to Seattle, Vial and McClure founded Zeeks Pizza. They operated under the premise that pizza shouldn’t be cheap. It should be flavorful and made with quality ingredients. “Don’t get us wrong,” the founders write on the company website. “We like fast and reasonably priced, but cheap can suck it.”
In the early 1990s, serving homemade and quality food was yet to be in vogue. “I think we were on that trend early on,” Black says. “People will pay a couple bucks more for a better product. Establishments that serve local and fresh food do well. Our financial performance has proved that.”
Zeeks Pizza prides itself on making its pizza with locally sourced, quality ingredients and by hand-tossing each pizza. “One of the things that distinguishes our pizza is the bread,” Black says. “Our bread is the star of the show. It makes our pizza more savory.”
Aside from pizza, the eatery is known for its variety of “creative pies,” or pizzas made with non-traditional veggies and alternative sauces. “In 1993, the number of veggie pies we had was equal to the meat pies,” Black says. “We really were pioneers of barbecue pizza and Thai pizza.”
Zeeks Pizza offers roughly 30 signature pies on its menu. Some of its creative pies include Thai One On and Yeti. The Thai pie consists of chicken, bean sprouts, carrots and fresh cilantro layered over mozzarella with Zeeks’ signature peanut sauce. The Yeti features chicken, bacon, diced roma tomatoes, red onions, parmesan, mozzarella and fresh oregano layered over Zeeks’ signature alfredo sauce.
“We chop our herbs daily,” Black says. “You’re getting fresher and higher-quality toppings with us than you do with most places.”
Customers can also build their own pie by choosing a base sauce and selecting a cheese and other ingredients. In addition to pizza and pies, Zeeks is known for its assortment of craft beers. “We are one of the bigger craft beer carriers,” Black says. “We feature beer from the best local breweries in the Northwest.”
A typical Zeeks Pizza will generally carry around 15 different types of craft beers – many of which are exclusive to Zeeks. Its house beer, Hop Tropic brewed by Reuben’s Brews in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, is among the most award-winning IPA beers.