Matt Andrew opened his first Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint in Atlanta, Georgia in 2008, after getting his start in the fast-casual restaurant world with the Moe's Southwestern Grill chain. There are now fifteen Uncle Maddio's franchises in the Atlanta area alone, with more popping up every day throughout the South, Northeast and Midwest. Andrew launched the first Uncle Maddio's franchise in Colorado yesterday in Aurora's Gardens of Havana shopping center, a four-year-old plaza anchored by a Sprouts Market and a Target. Although the concept was born in Georgia, don't expect an odd regional pizza style (like the St. Louis-style pies that Arch Pizza tried unsuccessfully to introduce to Denver); Andrew says Uncle Maddio's pizzas are traditional, hand-tossed pies with sauce and dough recipes acquired from an established Little Italy pizzeria in New York City.
The Aurora location, run by franchisee James Smethie, is the first of three Uncle Maddio's that will open in the metro area this year, with a total of six promised by the end of 2016. It's all part of an aggressive growth strategy that will see 30 new Uncle Maddio's franchises open nationwide this year alone.
"It's a similar approach to Moe's," explains Andrew, "but we plugged in pizza, salads and panini." But the owner understands the importance of quality and cites Chipotle's "food with integrity" motto as something that's been important to the burrito chain's growth.
"We took an all-scratch approach," he continues. "We're going for the wow-food factor. You don't have to package everything in bags and boxes. We can build up to 200 pizzas an hour, but you don't have to sacrifice quality."
Like many other fast-casual operations, customers can customize their orders and watch as each pizza is built and cooked. Uncle Maddio's offers three crust styles (white, whole wheat and gluten-free) in four sizes (including a kids' size) with six different sauces and over forty meat and vegetable toppings. There are also salads -- build-your-own or several signature mixes -- and toasted panini.
Andrew explains that he intentionally steered away from the current trend of wood-fired pizzas. "If you look at this country in terms of pizza, it's not wood-fired," he adds. "We didn't want to be in a niche business. They just don't have the throughput we needed."
Rather than hip or trendy, Andrew's goal is "a neighborhood pizza joint that has a warm feel but with modern decor. We want to be that neighborhood pizza joint."
Andrew notes that Colorado is an important location to the company and that he'd like to set up a regional office here as a base for expansion to other Western states. "Denver is one of those ideal fast-casual towns," says Andrew. "The Denver market has embraced this style of eating early on. We're big outdoor enthusiasts and love to play outside like Coloradans."
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Uncle Maddio's is throwing a grand opening celebration tomorrow, with free nine-inchm three-topping pizzas for guests who come in between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.