Naked Pizza to Expand Into Florida

Healthful pizza maker Naked Pizza will add 20 to 40 new locations this year after signing a licensing agreement that will expand the company into Florida, a spokesman for the New Orleans firm said Tuesday. The deal sets the stage for the 498-square-foot Claiborne Avenue shop, which already has attracted investment from billionaire Mark Cuban, to enter an out-of-state market. “The goal was to franchise from the very beginning,” said Robbie Vitrano, a spokesman for the company. “We’ve spent three and a half years of perfecting a business model that could be replicated.” Under the so-called area development deal, Florida NKP LLC received the right to open 50 Naked Pizza locations throughout Florida. Florida NKP comprises a group of investors who have operated fast food and casual dining businesses in the Florida area, Vitrano said. No other information about the firm was given. “They thought this was the next big thing in fast food,” Vitrano said. “We had a sit down to talk about the concept, and from there the relationship has proceeded fairly quickly.” The deal was facilitated by an investment from the Kraft Group, a Massachusetts company that also shares ownership of the New England Patriots, Vitrano said. Kraft made a monetary investment in Naked Pizza in September. The sum was not disclosed. “That set up all the moving parts to set up the franchising business,” Vitrano said. Naked Pizza opened in 2006 with a mission to sell a healthier pizza. The company touts its use of multigrains and natural ingredients. “Some say it’s sort of audacious or radical to challenge the fast food industry,” Vitrano said. “It may sound high-minded, but it’s our mission.” Vitrano said the company has received more than 3,000 inquiries about franchising opportunities and has signed about two dozen letters of intent with potential licensees, who each would open as few as three or as many as 100 locations. Several of those firms in talks with Naked Pizza are in Louisiana, though the company has no immediate plans to expand in the state. Vitrano said the company expects 20 to 40 locations to be operating by the end of the year. Naked Pizza’s role will be to support the new sites with marketing, branding, supply chain development and other business-related tasks. The company will likely need to triple the staff of nine in its local office in the Warehouse District as it grows, Vitrano said. “One of the most important parts is we’re excited that we can build a company that can grow from New Orleans,” Vitrano said.