A Kettering-based pizza chain that has grown rapidly since its beginnings has new owners, but that doesn’t mean the restaurant’s founders are slowing down.
Rapid Fired Pizza LLC announced last week that Pie Guys Restaurants LLC has acquired the company. Mike Kern, a veteran of the industry, will serve as CEO and president. Chip Hurst will serve as the new chief development officer.
Led by Kern and Hurst, Pie Guys Restaurants LLC is based in South Carolina.
After divesting ownership of the brand, according to a Rapid Fired Pizza release, Rapid Fired Pizza founder Ray Wiley and his partner and co-founder of Rapid Fired Pizza, Kelly Gray, will continue as licensees, operating locations in Ohio as a testament to his continued belief in the brand.
Of the eight remaining Rapid Fired Pizzas in operation in the Dayton region, Wiley and Gray are now licensees of three stores. Pie Guys Restaurants now operate the remaining five stores in the Dayton market.
Two other restaurants remain open in Springfield and Middletown as well, but are owned by separate franchisees.
As a part of the agreement terms, Gray said they are not allowed to disclose how much the company was sold for.
While Gray said the hope was always to get to the point of a major acquisition like this, the original vision was to first see Rapid Fired Pizza expand to a national scale. Though the company might not be in every state just yet, Gray said when they were approached by Kern and Hurst, it was opportune timing.
“Things have been so challenging this last couple of years with COVID,” she said. “This is a great opportunity and allows us to focus on our Hot Head Burritos brand.”
In 2007, Wiley launched the Hot Head Burritos restaurant concept. Today, there are 81 stores total and it continues to grow at a steady pace. Now with less focus on Rapid Fired Pizza, Gray said they plan to focus especially on curbing supply chain issues that many restaurants across the country have dealt with throughout the pandemic.
Then last year, Wiley launched another restaurant concept called Wiley’s Wings Tenders Fries and opened the first restaurant in Huber Heights. While they do plan to continue growing this newest venture, Gray said the national chicken shortage has put any Wiley’s expansions on pause.
The first Rapid Fired Pizza opened in September 2015 on Ohio 725 east of the Dayton Mall. Rapid Fired was the first fast-casual, quick-serve pizza concept to open in the Dayton area.
Today, there are 33 Rapid Fired restaurants in six states.
“This acquisition was based on Rapid Fired Pizza’s brand strength and proven market concept,” Hurst said. “We quickly recognized that the fast-casual pizza space has short and long-term growth potential as evidenced by market entries and overall segment growth.”
“Rapid Fired Pizza’s new owners are poised to enhance and optimize the brand proposition to participate in the overall sector growth by increasing relevancy and market share,” the release stated. “They believe that the quality of the brand’s offerings and strong consumer relationships have resulted in a loyal following and differentiates the franchise from the competition.”
In addition, the brand’s new owners are aiming to “grow the non-traditional market” by adding a Rapid Fired presence in grocery stores, stadiums and student centers.
Ahead of the recent sale, Kern and Hurst have been franchisees of a number of their own Rapid Fired restaurants in South Carolina for about four or five years, according to Gray, and the transfer of ownership felt easy and natural.
“It seemed like a natural fit,” Gray said. “We could really trust them with the brand that we’ve built to continue growing it and to take it nationwide to its full potential. And they kept all of our key people that were in those stores. That was really important to us that, you know, nobody be without a position.”
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