Second location of this fast-casual restaurant now open in Sandy Springs, Georgia.
Founder & CEO John Smith answers our questions.
By Hope S. Philbrick
Rize is a fast-casual restaurant that offers a lunch and dinner menu of artisan pizza along with chef-driven fare that includes handcrafted salads, small plates and pasta with bold flavors along with a selection of craft beers, wine and sangría.
“We say we offer ‘Pizza with a Soul,’” says John Smith, Rize founder and CEO. “It embodies the artisan spirit in which we prepare our food, the way we care for our team and the way every guest is treated like friends and family. We feel every moment is an opportunity to create a truly memorable dining experience for our guests.”
After earning a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Temple University and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School, Smith worked with several companies including General Electric, IBM Diamond Cluster International, Target Corporation, and Caesars Entertainment Corporation, among others.
Now, his entrepreneurial spark has driven him to launch and build a brand. According to press materials, Smith’s ultimate goal for Rize is to change the landscape of fast-casual dining for the better by achieving a mission to bring people together around the joy of food and inspire them to craft their best life.
We recently talked with John Smith by phone.
By your definition, what are the key differentiators between ‘fast casual’ and ‘fast food’?
Fast casual has a higher quality food product but is prepared in relatively close to the same timeframe as fast food. Customers are willing to pay a little more because it’s higher quality, served in a better environment and still within a reasonable time.
What separates Rize from its competition?
The way I think about it is that there are competitors and then what I call rivals. The traditional pizza place offers a very limited menu and little service; we don’t call them our competitors, they’re our pizza rivals. Competitors are any other restaurants where customers think about going for lunch or dinner, whether it’s for tacos, tapas, burgers, [or whatever].
We’ve got amazing pizza crust and that’s our biggest differentiator. Our artisanal pizza crust is made with care, as is everything on our menu including our amazing craft beverages, small plates, pastas and salads. And our prices are very affordable.
What do you see as the biggest fast-casual trends for 2017?
There’s a lot of talk about ethnic flavors, from Africa and around the world. For us that is the heart of our menu and bold flavors. We have authentic Lebanese hummus, Asian barbecue pizza, and other global flavor influences. Another trend is vegetables: More people want to eat healthy and vegetables are a bigger part of the menu. We have a vegetable pizza, vegetarian flatbread, hummus and other options.
What do your customers most often cite as reasons for dining at Rize?
I would say we hear three main things: (1) the pizza is amazing, (2) our menu is not just pizza—as one person put it, “There’s some real culinary shit going on here!”—and (3) our people. We spend a lot of time investing in our culture and it’s the heart of everything we do.
@21plusTravel Tip: Try the white sangria. It’s the bomb!
Rize Artisan Pizza + Salads
6050 Roswell Rd.
Sandy Springs, GA 30342
– Photos courtesy Rize; click on individual photos for additional details
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