Pizza Patron Inc., a Dallas-based pizza chain largely geared toward the Hispanic market, has given the green light to a group of investors who want to open 10 new locations in the Rio Grande Valley.
Pete Donbavand, a partner with Valley PP Partners LLC, said the plan is for two new stores in Brownsville, one in San Benito and the rest elsewhere in the Valley. Harlingen probably won't get a new store, due to the company's two-mile "radius requirement" mandating at least two miles between locations, he said. That's unless the partnership can acquire Harlingen's existing Pizza Patron or get a waiver on the two-mile rule, which Donbavand admits "might be a stretch."
The Harlingen store, two in Brownsville and two Pizza Patrons in Edinburg and McAllen are not Valley PP Partners franchises, though Valley PP Partners now has exclusive rights to the Valley region from Brownsville to Del Rio, excluding Laredo.
"Nobody else can come into the market or open additional stores besides us," Donbavand said.
He described Pizza Patron as "a good concept" based on a very affordable product.
"Pizza's real big right now," Donbavand said. "It's got a great price point everybody can afford, and it's perfect for heavily Hispanic markets because it's a Hispanic concept. We think it will do tremendously."
Sandy Bell, a public relations consultant for the company, said every aspect of the Pizza Patron targets Latinos, including a festive, lively atmosphere and fully bilingual employees. Bell noted that the first Pizza Patron, opened by Antonio Swad in Dallas in 1986, was in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood.
"He just saw the need, because most of the Hispanic community was really underserved at that time," she said.
Today the company has 104 locations in seven states and at least 80 more stores in development. Promotional campaigns such as 2007's "Pizza Por Pesos," which allowed customers to pay in pesos for a limited time, and "Pizza Por Favor," a pizza giveaway earlier this month for customers, who ordered in Spanish, underscored the company's target market, creating plenty of media buzz and even criticism from some quarters.
Donbavand wouldn't say exactly where the Brownsville or San Benito stores would be located other than to say they'll likely be located in newly built shopping centers.
"We want to get them open as soon as possible," he said, adding that Valley PP Partners wasn't stopping at 10 stores.
"We plan on putting in more, but once we complete the 10 we should have a pretty good idea of what we think the market can handle and where we'll be able to get sites," Donbavand said. "That can be tough, especially in some of the smaller markets where there's not very much available. It just depends, but we fully expect to put in more than 10."
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