The Firezza concept allows customers to order pizza by the meter and have it delivered to their table in five to eight minutes. “It’s a restaurant where you can sit down but it’s faster than fast casual,” says Basic. “It’s a place where you stop on the way to your destination rather than it being your destination.
“We wanted to do pizza by the meter, which is traditional Neapolitan style where you can have a quarter meter or a meter with toppings to share with big families. It’s not like one pizza for yourself and that’s it, it makes the whole experience more interesting, more social and more fun.”
Basic arrived in England as a refugee in 1992 who could not speak English. “My first job was in an Italian restaurant washing the dishes,” he said. “They didn’t have a dishwasher, they had two floors and 200 seats. It was a tough job.”
For ten years, he worked in hospitality as a waiter, an assistant manager and an area manager before deciding to launch his own business.
“When I was ready to start my own business I did research for six months in Naples where pizza originated from. I wanted to offer the best pizza in the world through both delivery and eating out.”
For six months, Basic conducted market research in the quest to recreate authentic, high quality Neapolitan pizza.
Basic saw a gap in the market at the time where there was a lack of high quality food being delivered, so set out to fill that gap by making delivered pizza better.
It is maintaining quality, simplicity and speed that inspires Basic the most, he says. “I’ve been inspired by, I don’t want to say fast food, but pop-ups that don’t compromise on quality and I think it was and it still is a growing market where you can do things better without compromising on speed or quality.”
Sixteen years later, the first sit-down Firezza restaurant has landed in Soho, with the London location matching the fast pace of the restaurant.
“I think Soho is the perfect location. The concept suits high footfall areas with plenty of bars, restaurants and theatres, attracting our target audience, which is millennials.”
Basic has managed to stay ahead of the growing demand for free-from options, with Firezza winning Best Vegan Pizza in the 2015 Vegan Food Awards by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
With a gluten free pizza base already on the menu, the introduction of further products is on the horizon as Basic hints at the possibility of a cauliflower pizza base.
While keen to stay ahead of trends, Basic believes the rise in demand for deliveries and the consequential problems for restaurants is the biggest challenge facing the casual dining sector.
“The problem with restaurants is the layout is not built for delivery and they are not geared up in the kitchen for delivery.
“Restaurants are struggling because Friday night is when most people are both eating out and ordering delivery,” he says. “I presume for delivery orders restaurants are switching off because they’re going to prioritise their customers eating in. Those ordering delivery at the busiest times will have fewer choices.”
With around one quarter of the Soho site’s business being deliveries, the layout of the restaurant and kitchen enables both delivery and eat-in orders to be processed in two separate operations.
“In this place, we were fortunate enough that the layout was here already,” says Basic. “It’s a beautiful square space with deliveries on the side. If you want delivery we can do it on the side so it doesn’t interfere.”
Firezza is founded on the principle of simplicity, with drinks options limited to craft beers, one red wine, one white wine and one soon-to-be-introduced rose wine, with all wine dispensed from boxes and served in a carafe.
However the demand for spirits in Soho means introducing spirits is on the cards but Basic maintains he won’t over complicate Firezza’s drink offerings. He says: “Simplicity is key for us, so we’ll keep it very simple, very basic in choice and have one or two things.”
For Firezza, expansion plans come second to fine-tuning the concept. Basic says: “It’s a work in progress so once we are confident we’ve got exactly what the concept is about then we can go for the next site.”
This article was published on Eat Out on Thursday, June 15th and can be viewed here.