Chain Leader Magazine
Volume 9, #3
Smoky Mountain expands it’s pizzas and pastas to surrounding regions.
Written by Maya Norris
The mountain resort towns of Idaho have proven to be fertile ground for Smoky Mountain Pizza and Pasta. The Boise, Idaho-based casual dining chain has spent the last 11 years cultivating its eight units there. Now it’s ready to sow the concept in neighboring states.
“We believe it is a concept that can be embraced nationwide at the right point,” says Dan Todd, President and CEO. “We feel that, however, taking it one step at a time has worked for us.”
With a background in construction and no food service experience, Todd’s father, Jerry, and brother, David, opened Smoky Mountain Pizza and Pasta in 1992 in Ketchum, Idaho, to give middle- and upper-middle-class families a casual dining option among the plethora of fine-dining restaurants in the resort town.
The first unit raked in $800,000 in sales its first year, exceeding the original projection of $500,000. Now at nine units, the concept’s average unit volume tracks about $1.3 million a year with an average check of $10.25.
Around the World
Todd attributes part of Smoky Mountain’s success to the quality and value of its eclectic pizzas, pastas, salads, and sandwiches. He is reluctant to categorize the menu, only willing to compare it to the global-influenced fare of California Pizza Kitchen. “We really bring a lot of flavors of different cultures into our cuisine.” Todd says.
Best sellers include the Teriyaki Chicken Fettuccine, $9.75, with broccoli, carrots and mushrooms in creamy teriyaki sauce; Great White Pizza, $12.75 to $21 (depending on size), marinated chicken, artichoke hearts, Roma tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh garlic on a base of garlic sauce and topped with mozzarella, provolone and cheddar cheeses; and Black Bean Ravioli, $9.95, stuffed with jalapenos and black beans and served in roasted red pepper cream sauce with spinach and sour cream.
In contrast to its worldly menu, the chains rustic decor is reminiscent of a cozy ski lodge. The interior features red, green, and golden-wheat walls with a faux distressed finish; red and white checkered tablecloths; hand-hewn wooden booths; cedar wainscoting; and black and white photos of sports such as fishing, horseback riding, and skiing. Smoky mountain restaurants are about 3,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet with seating for 100-200.
Conquering Other Summits
With system wide sales topping $9.1 million last year, Smoky Mountain opened its first restaurant outside Idaho in January 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Todd intends to open three or four units in Utah over the next two years while investigating potential sites in a third Mountain State yet to be determined.
After establishing six to eight units in those states by 2006, the chain plans to open 15 to 20 stores in the western United States by 2008. Smoky Mountain’s long-term goal is to have 75-100 units nationwide within the next 10-15 years.