Move over Georgie Pie - Australian chain Pie Face has crossed the Tasman and its Kiwi master franchise holders have a bullish plan to establish 60 stores in this country over the next 10 years.
The first New Zealand Pie Face outlet, which offers both dine-in and takeaway, opened on central Auckland's Shortland St at the weekend and from Wednesday to Saturday will operate 24 hours a day to cater for both central city workers and the late-night party crowd.
New Zealanders are some of the world's most committed pie consumers, gobbling an average of 15 meat-filled pastry parcels each year, according to Food Standards Australia New Zealand.
That beats the Aussies, who consume - on average - 12 pies annually.
Wanaka-based Julian Field, who's secured the New Zealand master franchise for Pie Face with business partner Jared Palmer, said Kiwis' love affair with the pie was one of the main reasons for bringing the fast food concept, which was founded in Sydney in 2003 and has 80 Australian stores, to this country. "We're huge pie eaters over here," he said.
Rival pie chain Jesters operates 17 sites in New Zealand, but Field said he didn't see that business - or McDonald's attempt to reintroduce Georgie Pie for that matter - as a competitive threat. "McDonald's are going to do what McDonald's are going to do," he said. "Good on them."
Pie Face has established a central kitchen in Mt Wellington capable of producing 1000 pies an hour.
The pies are then baked fresh in store each day.
Regular size Pie Face pies sell for between $4.90 and $5.90, compared with $4.50 for a Georgie Pie and $4.60 to $4.90 for the Jesters range.
Pie Face is planning to establish a Quay St store in November and sites in New Lynn and Christchurch by the middle of next year.
Field said he would like to open at least five stores in Auckland's CBD.
Hitting the 60 store target wasn't overly ambitious, he added.
"At the end of the day look at the benchmark of Subway with 240 stores in New Zealand, established in the last 15 years," Field said. "We're not looking to saturate to that extent, but there's no reason why we can't reach 60."
By the time the chain reached 60 stores he expected around 30 per cent would be company-owned, with the balance operated by franchisees.