Anthony Russo, founder and CEO of Russo’s New York Pizzeria unveils the company’s aggressive multi-unit franchise growth strategy for the Middle East, to be rolled out over the next 10 years.
Please tell me the history of Russo’s?
I am the son of first-generation Italian immigrants and I grew up in a New Jersey home where the kitchen was the centre of family life. This experience stuck with me as I moved with my family to Texas in 1978. My father opened Russo’s Italian Restaurant, which quickly became a local favourite and I found a second home in the restaurant kitchen. By the age of 12, I was learning family recipes from relatives who flew in from Naples and Sicily each summer. Making pizza and scacciata (calzones) became a passion of mine.
What sets Russo’s apart from other pizza chains in the Middle East?
Fresh, quality ingredients is what Russo’s has been about for more than 30 years. Our family recipes, which are over 100 years old, with their custom blend of spices and proprietary ingredients leave our competitors far behind. For instance, we make our pizza dough fresh daily; and to make a true New York-style crust, you need the right flour. Our pizza sauce is made fresh from our traditional family recipe formulated for Russo’s, with tomatoes grown in California, topped with 100% mozzarella cheese from a Wisconsin dairy farm. It’s all about real ingredients with nothing packaged.
How successful is Russo’s in the UAE?
Russo’s as a brand has a wide reach in the UAE as we currently have six outlets located in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, with more outlets in the pipeline.
Please explain the new prototype, which has been designed exclusively for the Middle East?
The new prototype is a casual dining concept built for dine-in, takeout and delivery service.
You recently opened your first Russo’s in Riyadh. Why is Saudi Arabia an important market for the brand?
Saudi Arabia is important to us because there’s no presence of quality, authentic, New York-style pizza available there.
Why do Russo’s concepts appeal to franchisees in the Middle East?
Russo’s New York Pizzeria is designed for the lunch guest on the go, with fast-paced counter service, where a slice and salad can be delivered in under seven minutes. The menu features our award-winning pizza, with an ample selection of appetisers, salads, and pasta dishes for guests who prefer to dine-in.Our overall approach is reminiscent of some of the first authentic pizzerias where everything was made from scratch with hand-picked ingredients, in a traditional Italian style.
What Middle East markets are you targeting for further growth?
We are targeting Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, Egypt and Lebanon. In addition, we are aiming to open a seventh UAE outlet in the final quarter of this year.