Toronto-based Maker Pizza is expanding, and in more ways than one.
The popular pizzeria has managed to navigate the COVID-19 shutdown tremendously well, and now as the world begins the transition into a ‘new normal’, Maker Pizza is expanding in size, both physically and conceptually.
MAKER PIZZA IS EXPANDING TO A NEW TORONTO NEIGHBOURHOOD
The newest Maker Pizza location will be part of the Bayview & Hillsdale mixed-use commercial and residential development on the west side of Bayview Avenue — south of Sudan Avenue and north of Hillsdale Avenue East — in Toronto. Due to be completed next year, this development is set to house Maker’s newest 2,000-square-foot home. This store will mark the third location for the popular pizzeria, adding to the original location at 59 Cameron Street and another at 1537 Avenue Road, both in Toronto.
The team behind DWSV Realty negotiated the lease on behalf of Maker Pizza under the direction of David Wedemire and Stan Vyriotes. DWSV is representing Maker Pizza in future location negotiations also.
Maker Pizza Owner, Shlomo Buchler, spoke to Retail Insider about the many expansion plans in the pipeline for the five-year-old brand, some of which include a menu overhaul and retail expansion.
“We’re really excited about the location in Leaside. It’s a great neighbourhood and we think it’ll be the perfect area for Maker,” said Buchler. “We have many offshoot initiatives coming out of Maker right now. We are reworking our menu — due to be completed for September time — which will feature a whole new lineup of sandwiches.”
Originally, Maker Pizza was the creation of both Buchler and famous Toronto-based chef and internet personality Matty Matheson. The Parts & Labour star collaborated with Buchler to create Maker Pizza’s elite recipes back in 2015. This partnership and friendship has grown over the years, and today Matheson plays an active role as an equity partner in the brand. “Our long-standing friendship has also developed into an amazing partnership over time,” said Buchler, “this kind of relationship is such a rarity.”
Traditionally, Maker Pizza offers a classic take-out menu of moderately priced sandwiches, salads, wings, and pizza, crafted with top quality ingredients by professional pie masters. Due to COVID, the menu has been condensed to just the most popular items for the time being — an initiative many in the hospitality industry have implemented to maintain efficiency during this difficult time.
MAKER PIZZA HAS EMERGED FROM COVID-19 SHUTDOWNS STRONGER THAN EVER
According to Buchler, Maker fared quite well throughout the retail shutdowns. Its business model is designed for take out and delivery so that clearly cushioned the COVID blow.
“The beginning of COVID was difficult, obviously. We weren’t really sure what was going to happen. We saw a dip in sales in mid-March but we were really lucky and by mid-April our sales were actually higher than they had been pre-COVID. They’ve been pretty steadily climbing ever since. We count ourselves very lucky. Although we have seen a dip in catering, especially at the Cameron Street location because offices are still empty downtown.”
This has clearly leveraged them into the post-COVID world, with Buchler even hinting towards more Maker locations to come soon, all within the GTA. “We have been looking at locations in Forest Hill and Swansea. The development in Leaside was obviously delayed due to COVID so there’s a possibility that another location could open even before that one does. Time will tell.”
Buchler also spoke candidly about Maker’s newest initiatives, some of which included a coffee concept out of the new location, a retail element, and a partnership with famous pastry chef Mathew James Duffy.
“We are partnering with a rather big coffee house, that for now will remain unnamed, and we’ll be launching our own coffee brand in the near future. We’re taking it slow because we really want to do it right with proper training and everything. We don’t see the point in doing it unless we give it our all. We are also expanding our cookie lineup and adding a retail element to our stores. Team building is very important to us and between me and Matty (Matheson) and now partnering with Mathew (James Duffy), I’m really excited to see what we can create. Mathew is our new Culinary Director and he’s so talented. It’s very exciting.”
In terms of its business model, the take-out and delivery aspect will remain the same. However the seating areas are due to be downsized. This decision will be implemented in the new stores and alterations will be made to existing stores in light of the ‘new normal’, which, for now, does not permit indoor dining in Ontario. The seating areas that previously sat just upwards of 20 people in each existing location will be reduced to make room for a more conducive kitchen space in both stores.
“Obviously the nature of dining in has changed and we don’t really see the benefit of having such a large seating area anymore. Going forward with the new locations we’re going to focus less on seating and more on kitchen space. We are also overhauling the kitchen at Cameron Street, which will mean taking from the seating space there. We think that’s the smartest move, all things considered. We will keep limited seating for the future though.”
The horizon is looking pretty sweet for Maker Pizza, as it slowly rolls out its new initiatives. However, despite the many changes, Buchler was adamant that the essence of Maker remains the same. “We value quality over anything else. We never want to stand still and we like to think that over the years our offerings have grown from strength to strength. We’re always looking to improve, and despite the expansion plans we are determined never to compromise quality for quantity. We are taking our time with all the new concepts and ensuring we do everything even better than we have previously. Our goal is to continue to improve just on an even larger scale.”