Naked Pizza, which has 25 locations from San Diego to Dubai, was founded by a pair of entrepreneurs in post-Katrina New Orleans who hit on the counter-intuitive strategy of combating obesity with pizza. Originally known as "World's Healthiest Pizza," the company specializes in lower-calorie pizzas made with multigrain crusts, probiotics and skim milk cheese - and without chemicals, preservatives or added sugar.
The chain's growth was fueled by the backing of billionaire Mark Cuban and aggressive use of Twitter. When Entrepeneur magazine in 2010 interviewed the co-founders, they stressed "they aren't running a pizza business, they're running a social media operation that happens to sell pizza."
But, until now, they only sold pizza for takeout or delivery. The opening of the Kent store represents a chain-wide shift in what QSR last year described as Naked's "fine-tuned operations procedures." Going forward, all franchisees will be given the option of opening a dining room, says Katie Hornung, who helps Naked with social media.
"It looks really cool inside," Hornung says of the 3000 square-foot Kent Station store. "There's a lot of reclaimed and natural materials. It's not your regular pizza joint."
According to Hornung, Naked's owners decided to launch the new model in Kent because "the community is concerned with healthier living, and they feel their deliciously healthy pizza and the sit-and-stay experience will resonate."
Naked plans to open 8-10 stores around Seattle in the next few years, she adds.
The Kent location will not offer delivery, although the service could be added in the future. Customers will "go through a line and build personal pan-sized pizzas to their liking," Hornung explains. That format's proven successful for local chain MOD pizza, which this fall announced plans to open its first out-of-state stores.
Hornung wasn't sure whether existing Naked Pizzas elsewhere would transition to the sit-and-stay model, but a message sent to the company's press department brought a response from Cuban: "I think that to be successful every company has to be open minded to new ideas. NakedPizza is no different," he e-mails. "We can't wait to help all of Seattle get Naked!"
Naked Pizza opens Thursday.