Oggi’s Sports Brewhouse Pizza pioneered the casual pizzeria in California. Now in its thirtieth year, the company has discovered that brewing its own beer was the recipe for its early success.

George Hadjis, Dora Hadjis, Tommy Hadjis, Estella Ferrera, John Hadjis and Shawn Hadjis

Now in its 30th year, Oggi’s Sports Brewhouse Pizza is truly a family business. Run by the Hadjis family, the 16-unit business discovered that brewing your own beer was the first recipe for success.

“Oggi” means “today” in Italian, and keeping the business relevant has been a staple since the first restaurant opened in Carmel Valley, Calif., By brothers John and George Hadjis in 1991.

“30 years ago the pizza category was very different from what it is today,” Estella Ferrera, vice president of Oggi’s and daughter of George and Dora Hadjis, said in a telephone interview. with Pizza Marketplace. “Of course, there were the Pizza Huts, the Domino’s, the Little Caesars – those big heavyweights… and the quick-serve pizzas. Then there was Wolfgang Puck and the California Pizza Kitchens and the 10 inch gourmet pizzas. My dad saw a really big hole in the market for this mid-section pizza offering, and more than just pizza. “

The brothers, along with George’s wife Dora, who serves as CFO, have opened a pizzeria offering deliveries and take out. It wasn’t the easiest opening – the restaurant was then part of another franchise – but drive and persistence led the family to early success. The same goes for the evolution of the business over time.

“There was no way it would fail,” Ferrera said. “It couldn’t fail. Going into business for yourself is not necessarily the reward for success. The reason you are successful is because you are afraid of failure. Failure is not an option. You put your life savings into these companies, so we fought and when the recession was over we really did. “

Adding a beer component

The Carmel Valley market was growing and so was the business. In 1995, the first major breweries opened and San Diego became the Mecca of craft beer.

The Oggi’s team saw the microbrewery not only as a market segment, but also as a way to differentiate themselves in the pizza industry and in the restaurant industry as a whole. Oggi’s Left Coast Brewing Co. was San Diego’s sixth microbrewery after emptying a restaurant and bringing in a microbrewery from Budapest, Hungary. Craft beer accounts for 24% of the $ 94 billion beer market, according to the Brewers Association, and Oggi’s is able to capitalize on this captive market by selling its award-winning beer.

“The customers, they were totally in love with it,” Ferrera said. “Obviously the profit margin was incredible. Every time we brewed beer the whole restaurant smelled of beer and hops and that was a really really cool thing. … We brew a very good, award-winning beer. “

Shortly after the addition of the beer component, the company began franchising around 1996. The second unit opened as a franchise and the company became a pioneer in casual dining, Ferrera said. The company at the time was a franchisee of another company, and in 2001 they split up and formed Oggi’s Pizza & Brewing Co. Six of the company’s seven franchisees came with them and also changed their concept to the all new Oggi’s.

“We were kind of pioneers in casual dining,” said Ferrera. “Casual dining has always been around, but we’ve really put it all in place to be successful with full-service dining, delivery, and take-out so you’re not limited by your own four walls.”

Sport, like beer, plays a big part in Oggi’s concept, “but we’re very careful never to say sports bar. We’re not a sports bar,” Ferrera explained. “We are a sport themed restaurant. You can come and enjoy full service and taste great food, great fresh craft beer and watch the game. This is a very unique offer. “

Oggi’s has been the official pizza for several professional sports organizations and is available at athletics stadiums throughout their respective seasons. Right now, it’s the official Los Angeles Angels pizza, and Oggi’s pizza is sold at Angel Stadium. “It’s a big part of our brand,” added Ferrera. “Our brand image and our partnerships have always distinguished us.”

Develop the brand

Today, sales are up 14.9% from 2019, and Oggi’s is expected to hit $ 33 million in 2021, even with dining rooms closed for three months this year. The company has 15 full-service units and an express location at San Diego State University. A regional development agreement is underway and several existing franchisees are also looking for new locations.

“We’ve been doing this for so many years that we know how to create a market,” Ferrera said, “but it still depends on our product. Our product is amazing.”

The dough is homemade every day and they mix the pizza by hand with proprietary ingredients that are consistent across the brand. They work closely with their suppliers to ensure continuity.

“Each of our restaurants has the exact same aged cheese, so it’s never aged differently when they put it on the pizza,” Ferrera said. “It’s a very well thought out and protected recipe, the same with all our recipes. We are constantly developing our menu.”

Quality is everything, and Ferrera said it shouldn’t be sacrificed for quantity.

“If you have to charge more for it, charge more,” she said. “Your customers will know it. They will smell it. It makes you lose your integrity with your product because you are there to deliver something that people love.”

Technology is also important, she added. Oggi’s is rolling out a state-of-the-art point-of-sale system, they’ve improved their online ordering and added QR code scanning, saving work if a customer just wants to order themselves.

“You haven’t been here for 30 years resting on your laurels,” she said. “You’ve been here for 30 years because you evolve.”