Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
First-timers entering one of the three Bia’s Pizza Kitchens in Georgia often are caught by surprise. “So many people walk through the door and say, ‘Wow, I thought this was a pizzeria,’” says founder and CEO Yousuf Hasan. “They quickly realize we’re so much more.”
Make no mistake; pizza is a main focus, with particular attention given to creating a one-of-kind crust. “We age our dough a couple of days, so it’s not too bubbly, and we flatten it with our hands. It’s very thin, dense, and crispy,” Hasan says. “The taste is the difference in getting bread from a bakery versus from a grocery store.”
But the same care given to creating authentic Tuscan-style pizzas is given to the rest of the menu, which is dedicated to offering a variety of dishes incorporating the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean, from unique salads and sandwiches to pasta dishes.
“The idea for Bia’s came about because I had traveled a great deal in Europe,” says Hasan, who originally is from Pakistan but lived in England before moving to the U.S. 18 years ago. “Here in the U.S., I never could find the same food I enjoyed in Europe.” So, Hasan and his partners, one of whom is Italian, set out to fill that void. Using personal experience and research, they developed the menu, much of which relies on complex recipes.
“Training on the recipes will be very important in the franchise process,” Hasan says. “We thought about whether to simplify the product or add time in on the training. We decided to keep the quality and improve the training process.”
In 2002 Hasan and his partners opened the first Bia’s in Macon, Georgia. The second location opened in Alpharetta, an Atlanta suburb, in 2004. The most recent store—in Atlanta—is a step toward their goal of opening 20 Atlanta stores in the next two years. Franchising is expected by the end of the year.