Pizza Depot: Combining western pizza with South Asian cuisine
By: Fadeke Adegbuyi
Today, Pizza Depot has 30 stores in operation with plans to expand despite the increasingly competitive state of the food and beverage industry. In 1992, Ranjit Mahil, the current owner and President of Pizza Depot, arrived in Canada with a Bachelor of Science and hopes of starting a new chapter with his family. Previously a chemist for a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in India, his prior experience did not translate into work. After months of searching for employment to no avail, he acquired a position as a pizza deliveryman, a role he held for several years. Gaining momentum, he bought a pizza franchise that he ran for three years. There, he gained additional insight into and an understanding of the food and beverage industry. Recognizing the growing South Asian population in his community, he saw a niche market and started Pizza Depot, combining western pizza with South Asian cuisine and considerations. “I though, ‘why not just start something different?’” says Mahil.
Upon launching, Pizza Depot sought to create the best product possible and establish a distinctiveness that their competitors lacked. Aside from using fresh dough and cutting fresh vegetables each day, the company created interesting menu choices such as “butter chicken pizza” and “oven bakes samosas.” The company prides itself on their use of high quality food products, like their chicken toppings from Maple Leaf. Pizza Depot was very conscious of including vegetarian-friendly options. Their menu offerings include pizzas that are inspired by Greek, Mexican, and south Asian cuisine. Additionally, their cheese contains no rennet, and their dipping sauces contain no egg. Mahil admits these atypical additions were met with skepticism, but they have paid off. “We are unique and different and we love competition,” says Mahil. “We have products that nobody else has.” Though initially going for the south Asian market for business, Pizza Depot has gained mainstream momentum and has restaurants all throughout Ontario and Alberta.
The firm quickly became a success and they began to offer franchise opportunities to the public. “Since then, we’ve opened 3-4 stores each year,” says Mahil. The company boasts low start-up fees to those interested in franchising, as well as comprehensive training programs, covering areas such as general store operations, customer service, sales support and marketing. Mahil’s initial experience as a franchise owner has informed how he runs his business. “Instead of percentage royalties, we offer flat royalties – after that they can make whatever they want to make,” he says.
Pizza Depot takes an active interest in the community and often provides sponsorship to various organizations like community soccer and hockey teams. They are passionate about breast cancer awareness, and contribute their efforts to other causes each year. “We often sponsor cultural programs in the community,” says Mahil. One such program is Indian Community Show at Canada’s Wonderland, a partnership that caused tickets to sell out in a single afternoon.
Pizza Depot has no plans to slow their roll. Recognizing the value of social media in the digital age, the firm has acquired the services of a marketing agency to assist with advertising and outreach. “We’re planning to open at least 100 restaurants in the next 3-5 years,” says Mahil. Opting to expand globally, Pizza Depot is considering to open locations in India. Operating the Pizza Depot along side his Brother-in-Law, the company is a family business. “My son is 16, maybe later he will take over and take it to the next level,” says Mahil. As a word of advice to potential business owners, he adds, “no matter what stage you enter into a business, if you take it seriously it will always be successful, you have to maintain quality and service.”