Friday, April 2, 2004

Straw Hat Pizza Dumps Sourdough Trademark

The Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative announced today that it has discontinued sales of its trademark Sourdough Crust Pizza. Citing declining sales of the product in recent years, Kevyn Johnston, spokesperson for the California based pizza pioneer said that the decision to stop producing the company’s trademark Sourdough Crust Pizza was not an easy one. “We know that many of our long time Guests will have strong feelings about the change,” said Johnston, “ but we know tastes evolve, and today’s Guests are looking for something new.”

Late last year Straw Hat Pizza resolved to drop Sourdough, which debuted over 25 years ago, and replace it with a new Pan Crust, deemed “Da Pan.” The company is counting on the new product to ignite sales. Straw Hat Pizza is believed to be the last major name in pizza to offer the quirky Sourdough Crust Pizza, which was promoted prominently beside the chain’s original California Crust Pizza for three decades. The Sourdough product gained notoriety as the chain expanded throughout the western U.S., but downward trending sales of the product in recent years forced the reevaluation of a long-time consumer favorite. “We’re sorry to see a hallmark of our brand go,” said Joshua Richman, president and CEO, “and we know many of our Guests will be unhappy – but we have to keep up with currents in our industry. We’re confident that Da Pan will be well received.”

‘Da Pan Pizza’ not only replaces the chain’s Sourdough Crust, but Straw Hat trusts to gain market share from its national competitors. “Pan crust pizza accounts for a substantial percentage of today’s pizza consumer’s purchases,” said Johnston. “We want our share of that market.”

“Da Pan has been embraced by almost everyone who has tried it,” said Johnston, “we’re sorry to see Sourdough go, but the sales speak for themselves – Da Pan is out-performing our best expectations.” However, the change has not been without its critics, said Johnston, who has responded to several Guest complaints demanding that Sourdough be brought back. “I understand their concern,” said Johnston, “unfortunately, consumer preferences have changed. We hope that our regular Guests will be open-minded and give the new product a try.”

Sales appear to bear out that the swap has been good for the brand. Thus far, 2004 reported sales are up nearly 10% system-wide with a fifth of the restaurants boasting double-digit sales increases. “We put a substantial amount of our advertising resources behind this new product; we hoped for the best, and we hoped it was good enough to replace the Sourdough,” said Johnston, “ however no one expected these kinds of sales.”

[SHCC licenses nearly 50 Straw Hat Pizza locations in California & Nevada. The “Cooperative” is solely directed by its membership and has been called “the un-franchise, franchise.” It provides the benefits of a franchise system, however, its individual owners enjoy greater control, and corporate overhead is kept to a minimum, (about 1/3rd of the average franchise fee.)]

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