From Chipotle to Shake Shack, millennials and Wall Streeters alike love a good fast-casual chain. So when Boston agency Breakaway had the opportunity to invest in and build its own chain of fast-casual pizza shops from the ground up, it couldn't say no.
"When [founder Doug Ferriman] had the idea for the new pizza, I sat with him to conceive the new business under this new model where we would not just be an investor but a true partner in the business," said John Burns, Breakaway chief investment officer and CEO of Oath Craft Pizza.
The team at Breakaway, which doubles as a venture capital firm, was intrigued by the unique ovens Ferriman uses to cook the pizzas in under 90 seconds. The ovens don't create any smoke and don't need ventilation.
"Doug had uncovered an oven technology that I thought would enable the business to build around a really innovative business model. It costs less to build and operate the stores, but uses better-for-you food," Burns said.
Taste was another huge selling point. Ferriman had crafted killer flavor combinations that the Breakaway team knew would sell, including a truffle sauce, Portobello mushroom and pecorino pie (the Muffled Trushroom pizza) and a sriracha chicken, mozzarella and rosé pickled red onion option (the Spicy Mother Clucker pizza).
Once Breakaway invested in the idea, the team began building the brand, from the name and logo to menu design and branded T-shirts.
"We treat Oath like a regular client," Scott Maney, Breakaway's chief creative officer, said. "It's on the wall. The client just happens to be down at the end of the hallway. That leads to great discussions. We can argue in the hallway and resolve it right away."
Breakaway opened the first Oath location in Nantucket last May and hopes to have 100 to 125 locations within five years. Burns said, however, that he and his team aren't trying to turn Oath into the next fast-casual sensation.
"We admire many companies, including Shake Shack, but we are very different—we don't want to have stores as big and do not plan to be heavy on dessert-type products like custards," Burns said. "There are things we can learn from others, but we are our own unique company."