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From Startup to Staple: Scaling Oath Pizza

Insights & Innovation |  5.14.2019

What would it look like for a global brand to scale a boutique pizza operation? We sought to answer that question when we met a pizza we couldn’t resist.  

Meet Oath Pizza, born in 2015 in a 400-square-foot seaside shop in Nantucket, MA. One look at Oath’s bubbling, crispy base is enough to know that there’s something special about this pie; the brand’s founders perfected a crust that cooks in under two minutes, flash-seared in avocado oil for a distinctive crunch. But the special thing about these pizzas isn’t their cheesy goodness nor their inventive flavor combos (certified humane chicken + Sriracha + pickled red onion, anyone?). What truly distinguishes Oath is a commitment to elevating the pizza experience by serving premium, fresh produce and humanely-raised, GMO-free proteins (that also happen to taste better). Oath is the only pizza restaurant in the nation to meet Certified Humane® or Global Animal Partnership® standards. 

Oath’s attention to detail and drive to meet consumer desires for quality, personalization and convenience made the brand a perfect candidate for a partnership. We talked to Ann Marie Solomon, Vice President of Retail Strategy, and David Reusche, National Director for Catering and Brand Management, about how this unique partnership model works in practice. 

Finding Our Partner 

About 18 months ago, Solomon’s team began hunting for trending offerings to round out the Aramark portfolio, and pizza revealed itself as a frontrunner. The category was pivoting from a premade, sold-by-the-slice model to make room for individualization. Pizza sales were “moving toward a higher quality, customizable personal pie service,” Solomon says. “We were looking at brands that would drive quality and personalization across our different locations.”

Our team conducted site visits and taste-testing sessions to find the right partner. “Some of us ate a lot of pizza over the course of a couple of months,” Solomon quips. In the end, Oath was a natural fit for the Aramark family because the brand reflects what we know our consumers value:

  • Quality: One bite and you’re hooked. Each pie is hand-stretched, flash-seared in avocado oil, and finished with fresh, flavorful toppings.
  • Health: Because of Oath’s commitment to sourcing real food treated right, customers can trust that every pizza is made free of hormones, artificial preservatives, or antibiotics.
  • Convenience: Oath’s personalized pie is quick-cooked in a conveyor oven in under two minutes.
  • Personalization: Oath pizzas are made to order, and unlimited fresh toppings allow for myriad combinations as unique as the customer — including dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.

We were confident that our exclusive partnership with Oath would be a strategic differentiator for Aramark, a benefit to Oath, and would ultimately drive value for our clients.

Organizing for Success

We’re proud to be one of the largest franchisees or licensees of established brands in the food industry, but due to Oath’s size, we knew we needed to develop a custom model to help grow the brand. Because Oath would be scaling from just a few locations to many, we wanted to ensure the support necessary to maintain the Oath commitment and experience.

It was equally important to us that the Oath team felt engaged in the process – a partner in keeping their brand consistent at every step. “There is a lot more skin in the game because Aramark is really driving a lot of their growth and unlocking new geographies,” Solomon says.

To ensure Oath’s real-time success, we designated four brand ambassadors. Our brand ambassadors conduct trainings, store openings, assessments, and coaching at new Oath locations. They deliver on-the-ground information to Samantha Katz, Director of Marketing Operations. She then helps our team aggregate learnings, identify areas of opportunity, and establish overall strategy. “Oath ambassadors have been critical in bringing back information to help us make changes and to then retool quickly. It’s adding to the success and has helped us make better decisions,” Reusche says.

The Oath team also credits much of the partnership’s success to the close communication between them and Aramark. The teams conduct weekly calls to ensure ongoing collaboration across and a collective commitment to great customer experiences. “The Aramark partnership has been an exciting step for our team,” said Drew Kellogg, President and Chief Operating Officer of Oath. “We’re appreciative of the opportunity and thrilled to see Oath expand across the country in just a few short months. There is a natural synergy across the Aramark and Oath teams and the partnership has only made us stronger. We’re looking forward to continuing to grow together.”

Unlocking Channels of Opportunity Together

To date, we have opened just under 50 locations and look to double that figure by the end of FY 2019. In under two years, our partnership has achieved synergies and extended the reach of the Oath brand.

According to Solomon, the relationship has allowed Oath to circumvent many of the typical challenges of a startup, from scaling barriers to supply chain troubleshooting. Opening over 100 new locations in less than two years might seem an impossible goal, but Oath is scaling at an unimagined speed.

This growth has not been without its challenges. We work hard to uphold Oath’s staunch commitment to humanely-raised ingredients across all locations. Forecasting our needs is key to ensuring reliable inventory, since not just any ingredients will do in the event of a shortage. On the flipside, we’ve been successful at establishing a robust supply chain of thoughtfully-sourced products – making Oath’s growth easier over time.

Two women chatting over pizza

A smile this big speaks to our partnership’s shared mission to inspire happiness.

Overall, our customers and clients are loving the new offering. To deliver on those great customer experiences, we must continue to find ways for incremental improvement. “Brand ambassadors have been gathering feedback on a vast scale, which our team has leveraged to fine-tune the customer experience”, says Katz. “Notably, we increased our speed of service and are now focusing on increasing the variety of pizza offerings.”

Inspiring Happiness

Through our exclusive partnership, we’re spreading the joy of a delicious pizza. Solomon shares a story of a customer who had known Oath in Nantucket. One day, she called her husband to excitedly report their favorite pizza was now selling in the hospital where she worked. “Get over here!” she said.

Baked into Oath’s DNA is its mission to “inspire happiness.” And at Aramark, it brings a smile to our faces to foster that kind of enthusiasm for good food and deliver experiences that matter.

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