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newest news - Disneyland project nudges Pizza Press to new site; chain also adding 300 restaurants

Disneyland project nudges Pizza Press to new site; chain also adding 300 restaurants

date:1395/12/26-02:46

Pizza Press owner Dara Maleki said his concept attracts a large variety of customers -- from families to college students.
“We’re not trying to call out ever hipster,” he said. (Courtesy Pizza Press)
Pizza Press owner Dara Maleki said his concept attracts a large variety of customers -- from families to college students. “We’re not trying to call out ever hipster,” he said. (Courtesy Pizza Press)
A rendering of the new Pizza Press on Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. The 2,700-square foot restaurant, facing Harbor, is twice the size of the original location. Dara Maleki’s flagship restaurant at 1534 S. Harbor Blvd. is moving  because the building is part of Disneyland’s Eastern Gateway Project. (Courtesy of Pizza Press)
A rendering of the new Pizza Press on Harbor Boulevard in Anaheim. The 2,700-square foot restaurant, facing Harbor, is twice the size of the original location. Dara Maleki’s flagship restaurant at 1534 S. Harbor Blvd. is moving because the building is part of Disneyland’s Eastern Gateway Project. (Courtesy of Pizza Press)

In the fast-paced world of build-your-own pizza chains, the founder of The Pizza Press has purposely stayed out of the spotlight.

“I’ve played the dark horse,” said Dara Maleki, who founded the first Pizza Press across the street from Disneyland nearly five years ago.

With nine restaurants in Southern California, Maleki is ready to bust through the starting gates. The newspaper-themed chain plans to add 300 restaurants over the next three years by hitting mostly untapped markets.

This year, Pizza Press has 30 stores in the pipeline, including the relocation of its flagship Anaheim restaurant. Other Southern California locations are planned for Huntington Beach, Whittier, Tustin, Belmont Shore, Newport Beach, Santa Monica (Third Street Promenade), Buena Park, Chino Hills and Irvine.

“This is going to be our breakout year,” he said.

Maleki is ramping up expansion as bigger rivals such Rancho Santa Margarita-based Pieology and Pasadena-based Blaze Pizza have led the build-your-own pizza category. By the end of 2015, both chains had 182 stores with sales of $175 million, according to Technomic, a restaurant market research firm in Chicago.

Maleki said he doesn’t “mind if someone has primed the market” ahead of him. In fact, his strategy is to build stores in less saturated regions of North Carolina, Georgia, Washington State, Las Vegas, Florida, Canada, Texas and New Mexico.

“We are spreading our wings where there’s not so many” other fast-casual players, he said.

Maleki, who previously worked as international import and export salesman, launched the first Pizza Press in June 2012 on Harbor Boulevard, in the heart of the Disney Resort. The brand features Roaring Twenties decor and “news worthy” pizzas coined after old-school newspapers: The Chronicle, The Tribune, The Times. (Sorry, no Register).

Maleki has been busy working with franchisees to find locations, but his main priority the past few months has been the March 24 relocation of Pizza Press in Anaheim.

About 18 months ago, Maleki was hit with distressing financial news.

His flagship restaurant at 1534 S. Harbor Blvd. would have to vacate because it is part of Disneyland’s Eastern Gateway Project. The proposal calls for a seven-story parking structure and a 174-foot-long pedestrian bridge hovering over Harbor and leading into the theme park. Disney secured the space when it acquired the Carousel Inn and Suites in 2015. Pizza Press is part of that property.

When the news broke, Maleki knew his store’s days were numbered. His heart sunk. The Anaheim location is his highest-volume restaurant, feeding hundreds of cast members and tourists a week.

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But before he could lose too much sleep, opportunity came knocking. His former landlord, Good Hope International, owns the Anaheim Plaza Hotel & Suites, less than two blocks away on Harbor. The developer and Maleki struck a deal to move Pizza Press into the hotel, which is undergoing a major upscale overhaul.

The 2,700-square-foot restaurant, facing Harbor, is twice the size of the original location. It will have a large patio, plenty of parking, 80 seats and 26 beer and wine taps. The current Anaheim location has only nine taps, while standard Pizza Press restaurants have about 20.

In the near future, Pizza Press plans to expand its food selections including improving its salads, currently served pre-packaged. In April, the company is rolling out three signature salads – a Chicken Caprese, Italian and Spinach. All three will be made-to-order.

The original Pizza Press location, at 1534 S. Harbor Blvd., will remain open through April 3 – overlapping several days with the March 24 grand opening of the new restaurant at 1700 S. Harbor.

The next restaurants are coming to Austin, Texas (end of March), Huntington Beach (late April), Belmont Shore (late June), Whittier (July), Santa Clara (August) and Tustin (September), Santa Ana (late summer), Newport Beach (fall) and Santa Monica (fall).




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