While many restaurants are closing or furloughing employees as a result of the strictures put in place related to the COVID-19 pandemic, one local pizza chain is expanding.
Zalat Pizza will open its seventh North Texas location next Monday in Oak Lawn at 4007 Lemmon Ave., a rare announcement in the current state of restaurants and retail.
While the expansion was already in the works before restaurants and bars were told to stop dine-in service last month, founder Khanh Nguyen says he sees no reason to pause the expansion. That's because business has been pretty good, all things considered.
"The locations that focused less on delivery are slightly down, but the locations that had more delivery are up," said Nguyen. "With our location at Legacy (Drive) and Independence (Parkway), something unexpected happened. They have doubled in volume. That was our smallest location, and they have rocketed to second busiest."
In terms of square footage, Zalat's newest location off Lemmon Avenue will be its smallest at 1,300 square feet. That's because it will act as a "cloud kitchen," meaning it will only have takeout and delivery capabilities. Smaller footprints have been a conscious business decision by Nguyen.
"We were reading the tea leaves early on. If there was a correction, we didn’t want to be sitting on these giant leases. A lot of our design points have been prepared because of the last downturn," Nguyen said. "We wanted a lean business model. That's why we only sell pizzas. We barely have any desserts or appetizers. It makes us more efficient."
Part of that efficiency has also involved eliminating company delivery drivers. Instead, Zalat relies on third-party delivery applications and has had partnerships with many of them for years.
"We haven’t done our own delivery since the first month we opened. We knew third-party apps were going to be the future," said Nguyen. "When the entire city is your menu, no one will buy a mediocre hamburger if they have the option of any burger out there. That's why we're focused on being efficient and having the best-tasting pizza."
While business isn't up at every location, Nguyen says the company has been able to avoid any furloughs or layoffs for the time being. They have even been hiring for the new location. Some rent relief has been asked for at certain locations, but has been avoided at other locations.
"Our larger landlords have been more amiable of slight pushes. We didn’t ask some of the smaller ones because if they own one building, we’ll shift money around and take care of them. We believe in being good business partners," Nguyen said.
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