The idea behind Pie Five, a new pizza chain from Pizza Inn that started here in Fort Worth, is half-baked at best.
In fact, half-baking pizza crusts before the customer arrives is an important part of this small-but-growing new chain’s fast casual concept: It can prepare, bake and get payment for your pizza is less than five minutes.
Of course, the pizza is only fair, slightly undercooked and costs as much as a full-sized pizza at some delivery chains, so you can’t have everything.
I’ve visited Pie Five twice, and I was much more impressed the second time than the first. Still, I wouldn’t actually pay $6.49 for their one-size-is-all individual pizzas.
I ate for free on both visits — the first because the chain’s restaurant in Montgomery Plaza gave away pizzas in its early days and the second because the company sent me a coupon for a free pizza on my birthday since I signed up for their email promotions.
On my first visit, the Athenian pizza I ordered should have been amazing — chicken, onions, olives, banana peppers, feta cheese and sun-dried tomato puree — but the garlic-butter sauce made the thin crust a greasy mess that also made a mess of the pan and of me.
It didn’t help that the loud music and busy wall decorations made me a bit nervous anyway. The restaurant’s décor seems to be trying too hard to be modern and hip when it’s really just an old company with very little new concept behind it.
The chain’s Camp Bowie Blvd. location in Fort Worth was still new when I visited in late December 2011. The walls were a bit less busy, and so was the store. The music was very loud, however, making the sparsely populated restaurant seem overrun.
The Pie Five High Five is a new pizza to the lineup the relies on a so-called pan crust and features pepperoni, sausage, bacon, ham and beef. It would be called a meat lover’s pizza elsewhere, and it’s a much more loveable pizza than the Athenian. With tomato sauce instead of the oil slick, the pizza was passable.
The biggest flaw in the Pie Five concept is that its pizzas are just barely cooked after they pass through the oven. There’s no browning, and some of the cheese wasn’t completely melted on my pizza. I would have appreciated the opportunity to wait an extra minute or two for a properly cooked pie.
There’s also another problem that Pie Five shares with some sandwich shops: You have to order three times. After placing your order, you have to confirm to the person on the other end of the oven that the pizza coming out is yours. Then, you have to confirm your order again with the cashier.
At least this is somewhat better than the ordering experience at Potbelly Sandwich Shop. There you must actually remember the name of your sandwich long enough to say it to three different people.
The $6.49 price for all Pie Five pizzas isn’t outrageous, but a small or medium pizza at many takeout pizza places runs about the same price and is (usually) completely cooked. There are also other lunch places where you can get much more food for the same price.
The Pizza Inn chain dates back to its first restaurant near Southern Methodist University, opened in 1958. The company, based in The Colony, apparently hopes to revitalize itself with the new Pie Five concept.
The selling point of the concept is supposed to be the speed with which the chain can produce high-quality pizzas, but many Subway locations have been for years cooking good pizzas in two minutes using their sandwich ovens.
The Pie Five chain is up to four locations now and has a fifth on the way, but I can’t see why they would bother to add any more.
The pizza is okay, but it isn’t really a concept that’s strong enough to survive.