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The Pita Pit Team
What happens when you're the one in the family who wants a healthier option or the entire flat is looking for a healthy takeaway meal?
Food expert Tony Small says Pita Pit is one of the healthier fast-food options in New Zealand.
"Pita Pit’s saving grace is its use of free-range chicken, bacon and ham, which Small says gives the meat a higher quality” says Small.
The top spot awarded by nutritionist Tony Small is taken out by Pita Pit because there are options for free-range meat, dressings with good fats, not the bad stuff, fresh vegetables and gluten-free bread.
Read more on how Pita Pit got voted the healthiest take out here.
For this fast-food battle, advanced nutrition and lifestyle coach Tony Small analyses two fast-food chains (Pita Pit vs. Subway) that are marketed as fresh, healthy alternatives to their greasy takeaway counterparts.
In the battle of the breads, Pita Pit wins with its gluten-free options and its simple dough recipe that has less additives, Small says.
A Pita Pit wholemeal wrap has four ingredients – flour, water, salt and yeast. Subway's wheat bread has more than 12 ingredients.
From Risk to Reward is a study commissioned by Suncorp to look at what is important to New Zealand businesses, what might be holding them back, how they feel about risk and how they see their businesses evolving over the next five years.
Building healthier families was part of what drove Chris Henderson and Duane Dalton to open their first store in Takapuna in 2007. Today Pita Pit boasts a national footprint in New Zealand, with 110 stores, and another 13 in Australia.
Besides the healthy, fresh ingredients and emphasis on ‘full disclosure food’ (moving to 100 per cent free-range chicken and eggs, and ethically-farmed bacon and ham for all outlets across New Zealand), Dalton says there is a real focus on making sure that the 1200 people in the business are enabled and empowered to deliver on the philosophy of open, fresh and authentic product – and service.
We are proud to be sponsoring the Pita Pit Roady with NZ Surfing Magazine. Their most recent trip was to Taranaki with some of the country's best surfers including the current national champ; Kehu Butler, Billy Stairmand, Jarrod Hancox, and their crew.
We were happy to support the boys on the road and fuel them with Pita Pit whilst on their journey. We believe Pita Pit it is what their body needs for just one more wave!
Check out Billy Stairmand and Kehu Butler in the New Plymouth store for a post surf dinner. Shaka Boys!
Here at Pita Pit we have a commitment to transparency with our "full disclosure food" initiative - moving to 100 per cent free range chicken and eggs and ethically farmed bacon and ham, for all outlets across New Zealand. Pita Pit was founded on the principle of such openness and reflects the ethos of a food business with nothing to hide.
Director, Duane Dalton says the move to free range and ethically sourced products has been in the pipeline for about 18 months. "It really is a reflection of our commitment to 'full disclosure food, we had been formulating the idea for some time but it's taken a while to ensure we have the quantities available for our needs."
We're committed to using only locally sourced products (another cornerstone of the Pita Pit ethos) and ensure the farming practices are sound. After months of preparation, we are happy to launch "fully free-range and ethically sourced" proteins. All chicken and pork is sourced from farms- Patoa Farms in Hawarden, North Canterbury providing the pork, and Tegel free-range farms providing the chickens. All eggs are from local free-range suppliers close to each of the 113 Pita Pit stores. It's not just animal products we source locally, our vegetables are too throughout the country, we’re committed to keeping things close to home; we choose New Zealand-based suppliers when possible.
Our "full disclosure food" philosophy ensures we are transparent around nutritional values, allergen information and sourcing of our products, so customers can make an informed decision about what they consume. We have also recently made the choice to change our sauces to reducing the sodium and sugar content.
As former teachers, both Director’s Duane Dalton and Chris Henderson have long been committed to improving dietary choices available to families. Our desire to see young people thrive has shaped decisions around the Pita Pit brand.
Pita Pit provided 23,700 meals to volunteers – known as the ‘Pit Crew’ throughout the World Masters Games tournament – during the 10-day Games period, with people devouring a whopping 1,300kgs of free-range chicken; 800kgs of New Zealand beef; 100kgs of New Zealand lamb; and over 1,100 litres of sauces.
Meals were made and delivered fresh daily to the 48 World Masters Games sites across Auckland, with the regular free-range chicken pita proving to be the most popular lunch choice.
“Auckland has been lucky to host an event like the World Masters Games, which has provided so many inspirational stories of people getting out there and getting involved – regardless of their age and circumstances. The event felt like a real celebration and every participant should be proud of their involvement.
“The Masters Games could not have happened without the support of the thousands of people across the city that generously gave up their time to ensure it was a successful event, and Pita Pit was proud to able to be able to provide them with healthy and nutritious lunches.”
As part of the Games, Pita Pit also had a base down at the Games Village in the Viaduct that saw Silver Ferns Storm Purvis, Maia Wilson, Anna Harrison and Bailey Mes all turn their hands to making pitas for hungry visitors, signing netballs and giving away Pita Pit vouchers.
Chris Henderson, Pita Pit Director says that the World Masters Games were a fantastic occasion that demonstrated the importance of staying healthy throughout your life through exercise and a balanced diet.
At Pita Pit, we make it easy for you to know exactly what you’re eating, so that you can make the right choices for you. We use the best local produce, free range chicken and eggs, and free farmed bacon and ham – all locally sourced right here in New Zealand. Choose your own fillings from fresh, authentic, ingredients you can see – and all made in front of you exactly how you like it. Visit www.pitapit.co.nz and use the nutrition calculator if you want to check calories, carbohydrates, sugars or other dietary requirements, so you know exactly what you are putting in your body. Its honest, full disclosure food, that’s still full of taste.
To help launch our Full Disclosure Food, we loved having our friends down to Britomart to roll their own pitas using the best local produce, free range chicken and eggs, and free farmed bacon and ham – all locally sourced right here in New Zealand of course #eatyourselfhappy #fulldisclosurefood
Check out what's in your meal by logging on to our nutrition calculator at pitapit.co.nz
When Canadian food chain Pita Pit opened in New Zealand a decade ago, it was the first time a store had been tried outside of North America. But now, there are more than 100 stores across the country, 14 in Australia, more than 80 franchisees, and upwards of 1200 employees.
Pita Pit New Zealand director Chris Henderson reckoned this was no way near "peak" pita, however.
Pita Pit NZ franchise co-owners Duane Dalton, left, and Chris Henderson brought the chain to the country about a decade ago.
"I think it depends on every move we make from now.
"Because if we did the same thing as yesterday we get the same results - and that's good, don't get me wrong, but if you look around every other industry, every food offering is doing something healthy.
"And that's not good enough, healthy is not good enough now, it was good 10 years ago, but it's now a point of entry just to open a food shop."
Henderson brought Pita Pit, which makes customised pita wraps and originated in Canada 10 years earlier, to the country in August 2007, after turning his one-year OE into six seasons as a ski instructor in California.
As a fan of the food, he figured there might be a commercial opportunity in New Zealand, where there was not a lot of "healthier, better choices".
Together with Duane Dalton, the teachers-turned-business partners secured the rights to Australasia and opened the first store in Auckland's Takapuna: one they still own.
"It was a massive learning curve bringing a new brand, that hadn't been proven around the world, except in Canada and America."
Henderson said customers responded well in the first few years, but as the global financial crisis hit at about the same time, the resulting credit crunch made it hard to attract franchisees until 2010.
Then, the real growth came, with Pita Pit "rocketing" up by 15 to 20 stores on average every year.
Henderson said this was ahead of its agreement with head office in Canada, and ahead of his own expectations as well.
"We had to open a lot of stores, but not 100.
"I guess we're proud of that because a lot of people could have just thrown in the towel after a year or two."
Henderson believed Pita Pit's surge in popularity was because it was a healthier option for consumers, with lower sugar, grilled meats and healthier fillings.
This was enough to differentiate it from "another sandwich chain in the market, the largest one in the world".
The company appeared on the Deloitte Fast 50 rankings in 2013 and 2014 when its sales growth was above 200 per cent, and last year Henderson and Dalton were finalists in the EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.
Sales growth over the last three years had averaged 25 per cent.
There had not been any store failures yet, "touch wood", but with 51 in Auckland and a New Zealand target of about 150, store growth would mostly come in Australia, where he thought the opportunity was huge.
"We could keep going, but we're very mindful of our local store owners and making sure there's a good territory for them and profitability.
"When it starts to get too big, like other brands have done, you start to internally erode."
Henderson said the company invested a lot of time into its franchisee support, and two years ago developed a business coaching network.
Each coach looked after about 20 outlets, and the company's 80 or so franchisees were very diverse.
"That coach needs to understand the nuances of every single franchisee and how he or she can work differently with every single franchisee, rather than paint a brush over every franchisee expecting every franchisee to be the same."
Pita Pit franchisee Grant Henderson, no relation, opened a stored in Lower Hutt in 2012, had owned one in Petone, and was about to open another in Upper Hutt.
He said he and his wife looked around various business opportunities, but settled on Pita Pit because it was a new brand which he thought had potential.
Head office had been supportive, and there had been a lot of changes over the years, but he said it was incumbent on franchisees to do the hard work.
"Unless you're prepared to live the franchise and work it the way they tell you, don't bother. I'm still passionate about the brand, otherwise I wouldn't be opening another store."
Last month, Pita Pit went free-range chicken, eggs and free-farmed bacon in its stores, as it shifted its focus to innovation in a world where being healthy was no longer good enough.
Henderson said it had invested in total disclosure about its food from field to plate, and was on a path towards sustainable packaging, which the franchise had taken the hit on, rather than the customer through increased prices.
"I know consumers want it, it's important, it's important to us, ethically. And secondly it opens up with the volumes.
"For example, with the 350 tonnes of chicken that we'll do this year, 55 tonnes of bacon and 100,000 eggs around the country, it allows the smaller guys, smaller food operators to be able to come in off the back of those volumes to make it easier and affordable to purchase ethically sourced foods."
- Stuff (Hamish McNicol, 09 April 2017)
You wouldn’t think there is much in common between sprint kayaking, Canadian ski instructing and a Chick ‘N’ Fala pita, but ASB customers Duane Dalton and Chris Henderson are living proof that there is.
In 2006 the Kiwi business duo left their sporting careers and brought the Pita Pit franchise to NZ, the first time it had operated outside of North America. Last year they opened their 100th Australasian Pita Pit store and this year they are celebrating 10 years in business together. ”We’ve been through a huge learning curve,“ Duane reflects and their success speaks for itself.
The pair initially approached Pita Pit in Canada about bringing the healthy food franchise to New Zealand. “Back then we were just so hungry for success – we had no fear of failure,” reflects Chris. “Blissfully ignorant!” laughs Duane. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the pair were able to apply their expertise on the sporting field to business. “A game plan versus a strategic plan is not too different.” They opened their first store in Takapuna in 2007 and now they have over 100 stores across New Zealand and Australia.
Refusing to settle
However if you think that running a franchise follows a cookie cutter method, you’d be wrong. The pair quickly found themselves on a steep learning curve, “We were taught how to run a store, not a country operation.” Adapting an overseas operation for New Zealand meant they needed to ‘New Zealandise’ Pita Pit for local customers and communities, something that had never been done before. There is a clear passion in this duo, and it has existed from the start. When designing a new store, they hit a hurdle getting the existing store design into the space available. The store designer told them it couldn't be done. But Chris and Duane stayed and worked all night to nut out a solution and a way to make it fit. “We refused to settle.” This meant many long nights and plenty of hard work but 10 years later they can look back on their success with well-earned satisfaction.
Making good food irresistible
Delivering healthy food - at scale - is something the pair strive for. “We provide food that makes your body reach out and give your mind a hug,” enthuses Chris. From Whangarei to Invercargill you can get the same Pita Pit experience - something industry competitors struggle to replicate. While artisan brands and food suppliers are now plentiful, they often serve a local market but haven’t extended their food offering nationwide as Pita Pit has. And that is where the real business growth is. “We are constantly innovating at scale.”
The constant swirl of change
Change is constant in every business and for Pita Pit this is no different. Change drives innovation and in today’s world of easily available paleo snacks and clean eating, customers demand more and more. “We are restless in our approach towards innovation,” says Chris. “Customers are more aware of what they are eating and how they are eating it, so innovation is entwined through everything, whether it be sourcing suppliers, lowering salt and sugar levels or social and corporate responsibility.” Recently the pair introduced free range chicken tenders into their menu, something customers have snapped up. And innovation also comes from customers – Pita Pit has noticed the recent ‘menu hack’ of ordering a garden salad then adding chicken tenders to it. Customer driven trends like this help shape future menu options and supplier choices.
So how does a successful business partnership like this survive? “Our partnership is like a marriage. Our marriage is 10 years old and most marriages don't last that long,” Duane laughs. But joking aside, their relationship was formed on a backbone of mutual respect. “Doing what is right, not what is easy. If it is good for the brand then it is ultimately good for us.” Personal agendas are put to one side, and decisions are made together. Ego has no place in their business.
So, from peeling off saucepan labels in the middle of the night to running a franchise of over 100 stores… in just 10 years. Pretty good for a couple of Kiwi blokes.
Duane Dalton and Chris Henderson are finalists in the 2016 Ernst and Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards which ASB is a proud sponsor of.