California-Based Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria to Enter Canada this Year with Aggressive Expansion Plans: Interview

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The iconic Southern California Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria, which has served Hollywood stars and is known for its Giant Sicilian pie that made it into the Guinness World Record Book, is expanding into Canada with plans to open numerous locations in the Greater Toronto Area.

Sam Wadera, Managing Partner of the franchise group bringing the brand to Canada, said there are currently four Letters of Intent in front of landlords for downtown Toronto, Mississauga, Hamilton and York University.

“Initially, we are starting our expansion in downtown Toronto and hopefully that deal will firm up. The GTA will be the initial focus and over a period of time we will expand further to the smaller communities further away from the GTA,” he said.

“If all is said and done, I’m hoping to open the first location by July and August. We are the first so-called franchisee for Ontario within Canada. We’re also the first franchisee for them globally.”

Image: Big Mama’s

Wadera said initially when he was doing research on the brand he knew a few friends and family members who had visited the pizza establishment in Los Angeles.

“It’s a gourmet pizza that is deliverable in various sizes. The company even has a world record for the largest deliverable pizza which is about 54 by 54 inches. They have their own delivery system which I’m hoping to utilize here while using third parties at the same time,” he said. “They also have offerings of pasta and salad and chicken wings and some wines and beers which I’m hoping to carry depending on location.”

“The main thing is pizza and they are good at making it. They have a lot of innovations in their pizza offerings, very much family style but still QSR (quick service restaurant). When I visited and I did my initial training, I saw a lot of families coming in at different times.”

Wadera has a number of years of experience in the industry, starting as a franchisee for Second Cup then he became the company’s development and operations specialist for international. From there, he became involved with Aroma Espresso Bar and eventually became its Chief Operating Officer.

Image: Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria

“As per the master franchise agreement (with Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria), I’ve signed for 52 but I think I can do more depending on how this rollout goes out in the next couple of years. I’m hoping to do around 80 and I’d then take it to another province,” said Wadera.

According to the Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria website, brothers Aro and Allen Agakhanyan opened their first pizzeria in Los Angeles while they were both attending high school in 1992.

“They toiled for several years to prove their pizza restaurant concept was unique and different from the national pizza brands. Not only did they recreate the traditional pizzeria with a “cool” Southern California feel, but they also expanded the size of their pizzas to fit the demands of their guests. Their initial pizza size was a 28” pizza that you could order with your choice of toppings. But it soon became apparent that in order to feed the really big appetites of their customers, the Big Papa (36” in diameter) was born. But Aro and Allen Agakhanyan were not satisfied even then, so they introduced the Giant Sicilian which was and is the largest deliverable pizza in the world. The Giant Sicilian (54” X 54”) and is in the Guinness World Record Book,” says the website.

“The Agakhanyan Brothers continued to enhance the BMPP brand with the addition of creative Southern California products like the Egg Gondola Pizza, Big Mama’s Slice, Pastas, Fresh Salads and Appetizers. Today, BMPP Pizzerias have become the place for family and friends to enjoy both lunch and dinner. The original BMPP restaurant was only 500 square feet. Today, the recently opened BMPP restaurant located in Glendale, C.A. is approximately 2000 square feet and future plans call for every new franchise location to be between 2000-3000 square feet offering Dine-in, Carryout and Delivery.”

It has grown to include 17 company and franchisee locations across Los Angeles County.

“BMPP is definitely “Southern California Cool” as witnessed by 43 million viewers who watched the live broadcast of the 2014 Oscar’s when host Ellen DeGeneres handed out Big Mama’s and Papa’s pizza slices to Hollywood A-List stars Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio & other,” says the website.

Kelly Farraj of The Behar Group is brokering lease deals for Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria as it expands across Ontario and throughout the Canadian market.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior National Business Journalist with Retail Insider in addition to working on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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