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Hospitality and Tourism

Popular Columbia pizza chain launches expansion into the Southeast

Hospitality and Tourism
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The owners of a beloved locally-owned Columbia pizza chain have made the decision to expand into franchising.

Village Idiot Pizza, which started in Five Points and has been in business for 32 years, is now offering franchises around the Southeast.

Owners Brian and Kelly Glynn, who purchased Village Idiot in Five Points from its original owners in 2003, will be a driving force in supporting future franchisees.

The husband-and-wife team met at Village Idiot when both were in their 20s and working in the original restaurant. They have since expanded to two other locations: 4517 Forest Drive in Forest Acres and Olympia at the Mills off Whaley Street.

The Glynns told SC Biz News that the idea to franchise came after the restaurants endured the turbulence of the COVID-19 pandemic, including forced closures, limited dining opportunities and staffing shortages.

“The decision was kind of born out of the pandemic, because we realized that we had probably gone through the hardest time in our industry that anyone could experience,” Kelly Glynn said. “We decided we really wanted to see how much more we could grow and bring what we think is a great model into other communities.”

Long-time customers from other parts of South Carolina and many other states have been inquiring for years about when the chain was going to expand, Kelly Glynn said. They regularly hear from people around the country who remember eating at Village Idiot during significant times in their lives, especially their years at the University of South Carolina.

The restaurant’s original location in the college student mecca of Five Points is especially associated with the USC experience for many people, she said.

Because of Village Idiot’s continued popularity with both current USC students and alumni, the Glynns think the brand would be especially well-suited to franchises in college towns around the Southeast.

For guidance as they embark into franchising, the Glynns said they have consulted with the owner of another local restaurant icon, Groucho’s Deli, which also got its start in the Five Points area.

Groucho’s, named after founder Harold “Groucho” Miller,” first opened in 1941 and has since become famous for its large menu of sandwiches and selection of signature dressings. The current owner of Groucho’ s, Bruce Miller, is following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father. He decided to branch out into franchising in 2000. There are now 25 locations of Groucho’s around South Carolina, three in North Carolina and one in Georgia.

“The first time we met with him, it was great to see how excited he was about us planning to franchise,” Brian Glynn said. “He knows what we are and has been very supportive and showed a lot of confidence in what we’re doing.”

Both Glynns said the most crucial lesson they learned from Miller was the fact that running a restaurant and running a franchise system are two different businesses.

“We learned that we’ve got to be able to change our mindset to be able to fully support our other operators,” Kelly Glynn said.

The Glynns have been working on the franchise launch for about a year and said since first announcing their decision to franchise, they’ve had several dozen inquiries from interested people around the Southeast, as well as some other regions.

“Our plan is to grow organically from the Columbia market – we don’t have an aggressive growth strategy right now because we want to be able to fully support these new partners,” Kelly Glynn said. “Our targets off the bat are locations in northeast Columbia, Lexington, Irmo, Chapin, and maybe eventually Spartanburg and Charleston.”

The franchise decision adds to an already notable year for the Village Idiot brand. In late 2022, they were inducted into the Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame.

More information about Village Idiot franchising can be found online. Those interested can also contact vipfranchising@villageidiotpizza.com.

 

 

Reach Christina Lee Knauss at 803-753-4327.

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