Dara Maleki grew up in an entrepreneurial family in Orange County, California. After many years of learning the ins and outs of retail firsthand – from cashier to delivery boy- he launched his own import/export business, working with clients from the United States all the way to Australia, forever changing his view of how far a small business can take a person. The skills he acquired in both realms of business laid the groundwork for the first location of The Pizza Press which opening in the Anaheim Resort District during the summer of 2012.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about The Pizza Press concept.
Dara Maleki: The Pizza Press is all about fresh, personal-sized custom pizzas made from our large selection of tempting ingredients, a huge, ever-evolving selection of local craft beers on tap and in bottles, all served with the friendliest customer service. The newspaper angle of The Pizza Press came from my background working in the print industry, as well as the “pressing” of our pizza dough, and the concept was fleshed-out from there. I have also always enjoyed the look and feel of the vintage 1920’s era and incorporated that same type of atmosphere into our stores.
BTB: How and when did you become involved with The Pizza Press?
DM: I founded The Pizza Press in early 2012, and opened the doors to our first location in the resort district of Anaheim, California during the summer of the same year. Our Anaheim location was an immediate success, which encouraged me to take a risk and turn our brand into something bigger through franchising.
BTB: What was your background prior to The Pizza Press franchise?
DM: Before founding The Pizza Press, I worked in international business. I’ve worked in markets across the globe, from here to Australia. My father, Rami Maleki, grew his businesses on historic Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim, California starting in the 1970’s and we’ve grown our other businesses as well as starting The Pizza Press from there.
BTB: What are some of the advantages in being a franchisee with The Pizza Press?
DM: Opening a franchise with The Pizza Press means becoming a business partner with a franchisor dedicated to helping create a plan for success as well as having a deep understanding of how to overcome challenges. Our corporate team works together with our franchisees in order to offer them the support needed in establishing and growing their business(es). It’s a rewarding experience to be part of a positive team with shared goals.
BTB: Who is your ideal franchisee?
DM: We are looking to recruit franchisees who are team players with leadership skills who exhibit positive attitudes. They should have strong retail and/or food industry experience, with a major plus being if they have a previous track record of successfully running a franchise business.
BTB: Tell us a little about the fast casual food market.
DM: The fast casual food market has definitely exploded in popularity in the past several years, especially in the “build your own” pizza sector. There are several similar concepts to The Pizza Press out in the market today, however, we feel this works to our advantage since people are now more than ever familiar and comfortable with what we have to offer them.
People always come back to The Pizza Press because we offer just a little bit more than the other fast casual pizza places – our vintage look and feel, our customer-focused service experience, our incredible pizza topping selection, and our variety of craft beer on tap set us apart from the rest.
BTB: What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?
DM: The greatest lesson I’ve learned through the franchise process is to stay true to what made our business successful in the first place. It’s important to keep the same quality at every location, as well as finding franchisees who are as excited and passionate about offering and maintaining this high standard of service, food, and drink to others.
BTB: Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?
DM: Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has heavily influenced me since reading his biography on a plane ride during an international business trip before The Pizza Press had been founded. Mr. Branson is known as a widely successful entrepreneur who is not afraid of taking risks, speaking his mind, and is now regarded as one of the biggest innovators of his generation.
BTB: What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?
DM: For those looking to get involved with franchising, whether it’s with The Pizza Press or a different company, my advice would be to first make sure you share the same overall vision and have respect for the existing culture of the company. Secondly, make sure that your franchisor will give you the support you need; opening a franchise means you are becoming a business partner with your franchisor so it’s critical to have the proper guidance during your journey together.
BTB: In your opinion, why do you think that The Pizza Press would be a great franchise opportunity for someone?
DM: The Pizza Press has a strong brand with a great franchise support team – we’re committed to staying true to our successful business model and love having the opportunity to replicate that success with our dedicated franchisees.