This is a guest feature post by SliceOfSF
Pop-Up restaurants blow up and fizzle out quite rapidly and with the low barriers to entry, new ones are starting all the time. In such a crowded market, many will search for differentiation to no avail. However, the few that do succeed move on to greater pursuits, like a mobile, food truck business or a traditional brick and mortar restaurant with a lot of success.
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Have you checked out the masters of Detroit Style Pizza @squarepieguys yet? Well you should. How about tonight?They are doing awesome pop ups every Thursday and Friday with @vinylcoffeeandwinebar and others on the weekend. Their DSP is funky (one could call it Dank…) and easily the best I’ve ever had. I guess it is just Dank-troit Style pizza…Alright I’ll stop but go try it! 📷: @pizzaman_420 . • • • • #ronicups #cheese #pizza #detroitstylepizza #pizzatime #popup #brewery #barfood #squarepie #dankfood #sf #sanfrancisco #eatersf #foodies #bayareaeats #pizzalover #popupshop #dinner #lunch #pizzatime #detroit #upandcoming #newyorker #eeeeeats #thrillist #followme #infatuationsf #dsp #pizzalover #bestfoodsf
Clearly the key tenet to succeeding in the Pop-Up world is uniqueness and, a newer Pop-Up on San Francisco scene, the Square Pie Guys have achieved just that. Have you heard of Detroit-style Pizza? Well it is a square, pan-baked pizza with very moist dough and cheese from edge to edge. Most people haven’t tried or probably even heard of it, but it is delicious and these guys are making it well. For two guys with day jobs, somehow, they manage to run this shop a few days each week and consistently grow their brand ever since the day they began the Square Pie Guys.
So, who are they? Marc and Danny met at a Levi’s Stadium in early 2017. They got along right away and became good friends. However, Marc said that the jump from friends to co-founders “came when Danny helped me run a pizza event for the Illuminoshi networking group (Bay Area Jews in food service group). We made pizzas together that day.” Danny noted that they are also “two goofy Jewish guys who love cracking a joke,” so that didn’t hurt.
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People behind the pizza: For Marc (@pizzaman_420), “It all started 4/20/2017.” As a New York native, he grew up exposed to amazing pizza but never guessed he’d end up running a Detroit-style pizza pop-up in San Francisco. That fateful 4-20, Marc made homemade pizza for his friends to drizzle with “infused oil.” After a challenge, he began working during his free time at famous spots like @pizzadelpopolo @pizzahacker @caseyspizza and @pizzeriadelfina to see if he had what it took and to learn a bit about the industry. Now, over a year later, @squarepieguys run several pop-ups per week and are growing their brand before the opening of a brick and mortar. Marc is a software salesman by day and pizzaiolo by night. Inspiring. So, watch the journey and try the pizza, I’d recommend it. FYI, the crust is fermented for 5 days and wildly flavorful. They nail this style. Rating: 8.8 Cost: $$ Follow @sliceofsf for more 🍕
After deciding to start this venture, one can only imagine how much work it takes to balance a full-time job along with starting a business. It sounds like time management is the biggest key to their success of late — and they have had to make a lot of sacrifices in their personal lives (none that they would take back).
Why Detroit Pizza? Detroit pizza, as they say, is “new to the bay” and gives them a chance to set themselves apart from the rest. “We knew we couldn’t do another neo-Neapolitan pizza place” like Casey’s, Pizza Hacker, Delfina, etc.” Those places are institutions at this point and they do a great job. So, inspired by Emmy Squared, the duo set out to make a name for the style here in the bay.
What was the first indication that this was working?
Marc: “The first night together was pretty amazing. There was a buzz in the air an intangible excitement in the room that felt special. Our guests were giving all sorts of positive feedback and asking us when we’d open our own place and at that moment we knew we were onto something.”
Danny: “Getting put in the running for Eater SF Pop Up of the Year. We didn’t even get a heads up from Eater – one of our regulars came in and asked if we had our social media engine up and running. We were like, ‘for what?’. Then when we found out that after 2 months we were in the contest, we were blown away. It was just this massive validation that something we were doing was working.”
What has been the worst night so far and why?
Marc: Despite it also being our best sales night to date (we sold all 87 of our pans), this past weekend at Harmonic Brewing was super challenging. It was coming off a long week of pop ups. We made our Eastbay debut at Prizefighter the previous Saturday and Tuesday, moved into a new production kitchen in the Haight, and did our regular Thursday/Friday service at Vinyl leading up to our gig at Harmonic. Right when we opened we were slammed with orders and since we only have 3 mobile ovens we’re making 3 pizzas every 8 minutes. The tickets started to stack up and then out of nowhere our fryer started to boil over and caused a big mess (pretty scary too with hot oil spilling out everywhere). What a stressful start. We regrouped and finished things off very strong as I said earlier but that was a tough emotional day for us (at least for me).
Danny: “We did an event at Bar Nua in North Beach where the oven wasn’t hot enough for our pizzas to cook properly. It was so disappointing to have this amazing oven that was ostensibly way better than our oven at our standard residency (Vinyl) kind of blew up. They weren’t rising. To add insult to injury, we’d prepped all of our pans and a bunch of other food, expecting to be super busy. And we were slowwww.”
Favorite Pizzeria anywhere? “Scotties pizza in Portland. Close second is Mama’s too in NYC”
Favorite music to listen to when working? “When service starts – something up tempo, EDM. Mid service – Indie, something like STRFKR, BORNS, War on Drugs, RubbleBucket. End of service/clean up – Rap, something with beats.“
Biggest pet peeve? “When people ask for vegan DSP. The big draw of DSP is the cheese edge, if we take out the dairy what’s the point?”
What’s next for the Square Pie Guys? For now, it looks like they will continue the pop-ups with increasing frequency until the eventual opening of their own brick and mortar next year! Stay tuned for their updates and check out their website/Instagram for the latest info. For those who haven’t tried their DSP, get on it ASAP.