WATERLOO, Ont. — For Abe Ibrahim, visiting a childhood friend has opened the doors to introducing a United States-based pizza chain to Ontario.
After moving back to Canada from Saudi Arabia, where his family owns a 12-unit chain of pastry shops, Ibrahim travelled to Texas to visit Sammy Aldeeb, the founder of Urban Bricks Pizza.
“I checked out his business, signed the papers and then flew back to Canada,” Ibrahim said.
Aldeeb opened the first Urban Bricks location in San Antonio, Texas in 2015.
With 10 locations open throughout Texas, Aldeed has also sold more than 125 franchises in the United States.
Ibrahim, who now owns franchising rights for the Greater Toronto Area and beyond, chose Waterloo, Ont., to introduce the Urban Bricks model to Canadian consumers. The first Ontario location opened on March 10 in University Shops Plaza, positioned between Wilfred Laurier University and Waterloo University.
“It’s a beautiful city. It’s urban and there’s a lot of students,” Ibrahim said, noting he is now looking for a location in Toronto.
“Basically, it was the perfect location to test the waters and see how things will go.”
Urban Bricks sells personal size, 11-inch pizzas starting at $6.49. Customers select their dough, cheese, protein and vegetables in a similar fashion to a quick-service sandwich or burrito restaurant.
“It’s build-your-own pizza; you pick whatever you want. It’s like Chipotle when you walk down the aisle,” Ibrahim said, adding they also offer eight pizzas with preselected toppings.
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To ensure quick turnaround times, Urban Bricks imports Neapolitan pizza ovens from Italy, capable of cooking the pies in two minutes.
“It’s a rotating oven, each rotation goes for 120 seconds,” Ibrahim said.
“By the time you pay and fill your drink, you’re picking up your pizza.”
The order is topped off at the drizzle station, where customers have the option of selecting a variety of sauces like chipotle or ranch. Guests may also create custom salads and order pizza-style desserts such as the cinnamon pie and Nutella banana pie.
In the spring, a pet-friendly patio will open at the 2,500-square-foot restaurant. With a garage-style door connecting the patio and restaurant, Ibrahim plans to install a Bottoms Up draft beer machine to serve guests sitting outside.
The draft system reduces beer waste to about two per cent overall.
“Basically, it’s a tap, but not a tap at the same time. You place the cup on the table and the glass is filled from the bottom up,” Ibrahim said. “I can’t wait to get my hands on that machine.”
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