Ready to expand into new markets? Know who your customers are

Posted On July 21, 2023

Is your business ready to expand into new markets? How do you decide which ones?

The key is understanding who your customers are and where they live and play.

So says Casey Biehl, chief operating officer at Fat Boy’s Pizza, a pizzeria based in Metairie, Louisiana, with nine locations in three states that’s looking to expand even further into Alabama and throughout the Southeast.

Biehl, our guest in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” is in a business where the vast majority of Americans consume the product – 93 percent of Americans have eaten pizza within the last month, he said. But that doesn’t mean a pizzeria is guaranteed to survive, even in locations that seem logical, such as near college campuses.

“As we’ve evolved, we’ve learned our true core customers are families,” Biehl said. “We do better near high schools. We do better in areas that have a dense suburban market around there.”

“Pizza is a social experience. …. We look for areas that can provide type of family-type environment for us.”

Part of the reason is that Fat Boy’s Pizza creates an atmosphere the entire family can enjoy. It has arcade games for the kids and a bar and sports on TV for the adults. Its managers and employees are involved in the community, partnering with children’s hospitals and working with animal adoption clinics.

And all its pizzas are house-made. They make their own dough, roast their own garlic and make their own sauce, making pies up to 30 inches wide.

Biehl joined the business after working at Caesar’s Entertainment, where he helped open Caesar’s Palace Dubai, and was part of food and beverage team for the new Caesar’s New Orleans.

A longtime friend started Fat Boy’s Pizza and Biehl ultimately came aboard after being attracted by the strong family culture and the potential scalability of the business.

“I really do believe from a culture standpoint, a big reason I made this leap into this organization is to make sure we surround ourselves with leadership that treats our employees as equals, treats them well, (and that) we adapt to the different personalities that are in the workforce today,” he said.

Biehl, a former collegiate athlete, sees adaptability as an essential trait for any business. One way Fat Boy’s has adapted to meet the challenges of an economy where workforce is now difficult to find is opening smaller locations and relying more on drive-thru and take-out or delivery orders. Another way is utilizing the latest technology, which requires less skill and fewer employees to produce quality pizza.

The key to maintaining the family-friendly culture Fat Boy’s has developed, Biehl said, is a solid hiring process.

“When we’re hiring people, we’re making sure they’re good human beings first. Then we follow that up with the technical skills,” he said. “One of the number one interview questions I ask, and it seems silly, is: “Are you a happy person?” You’d be blown away with how many times people stammer when asked that question. I think if we hire good human beings, they will convey those messages.”

Categories: Blog, Entrepreneurship, What's Working with Cam Marston, Workplace