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Wild Garlic is ready for more growth and franchise opportunities

Brook Bentley
bbentley@nnbw.biz
The Mt. Rose location in Midtown is one of several Wild Garlic locations in northern Nevada.
Courtesy Wild Garlic

Growth, timing and location are some of the pieces Dean Christopher, owner of Wild Garlic, is focusing on as the company looks into franchise opportunities.

The idea of franchising has always been out there for Christopher.

“We wanted to do it, but we also wanted to make sure we were prepared to do it,” he said in an interview with NNBW in December.

As Christopher talked about different ways to attract growth, he mentioned his motivator was not to own every restaurant.

“I would rather show people how to do this business and let them go,” he said.

He explained his excitement for building the business and his different approach to his restaurant staff.

“It is more of a lifestyle instead of a stopping off point,” Christopher said. “I would say 20 percent of my employees are here for the long haul.”

He explained that is part of where the franchising idea came from. “Maybe one day we can sell a store to a manager,” he added.

Wild Garlic began as a way to spin off from the Blind Onion, a local pizza restaurant that Christopher is involved with. He explained the opportunity to try different things using elements from his background, including garlic and a spicier menu.

“The crust is ours, and we knew we had to continue with the crust,” Christopher said.

“The crust is what has made the Blind Onion and Wild Garlic so successful,” he added. “Everything else follows.”

Christopher joked that pizza put him through college and when he began his corporate career he always knew he wanted to come back to pizza. But he fell into his endeavors with Wild Garlic and Blind Onion by chance.

In 2005, he saw an ad in the newspaper for the location that is now the Blind Onion off Kings Row.

“I bought that in 2005,” Christopher said. “That is where it all kind of started.”

Christopher and his business partner parted ways in 2010 and a couple years later, Wild Garlic was formed.

“The name itself was created by (my wife) Elana and I in 2012,” Christopher said.

Christopher’s Wild Garlic locations now include the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, a location off Mt. Rose in Midtown and one in the heart of downtown Reno.

Christopher also has several Blind Onion locations throughout Reno and Sparks as well.

“We have a central commissary where we make all our dough and sauces,” he explained.

Having a smaller kitchen can present a great deal of challenges in the restaurant industry. In order to help keep cost down and allow the restaurants to succeed with a smaller kitchen, Christopher centralized the kitchen.

“It’s about execution (at the restaurants),” he explained.

As Christopher focuses on distinguishing Wild Garlic in the pizza market he continues to care more about the success of locations rather than the quantity.

“You have to understand your market, and deliver consistency every day,” he explained. “The heart of our market is families and young people.”

His goal is to set up each location to be successful in its own right.

“Even with all of our restaurants, each restaurant has its own culture,” he said.

He explained if a restaurant chases after being most popular, they probably will not be there for the long haul.

“When you look at successful brands, you are looking at brands that have been there for 20 years,” Christopher explained.

The exact formula for the franchising and growth direction of Wild Garlic will vary with each location and market.

Christopher is looking into Sacramento, Idaho, Mexico and Las Vegas right now. However, he is not in a hurry.

“It is about finding that next person,” he explained.

They have a very interested person in Guadalajara but also need to find the right location.

“That’s the alchemy of the restaurant business: Location,” Christopher said.

Christopher explained some ideas for different markets. If they had three locations operating in a new market, then they would possibly look into a commissary.

Looking at Sacramento, they have the ability to use their Reno kitchen initially. In locations like Boise, Christopher would consider sourcing the dough to a bakery if it made sense.

“There are so many different ways,” he summarized. “It is never going to be the same.”

The market for fast-casual pizza is really competitive, but Christopher is excited about the challenge and mentioned they already have several seriously interested people.