Anniversary week specials:
— Monday, June 11 – $5 medium one-topping pizzas (all day)
— Tuesday, June 12 – $10 large (16 inch) one-topping pizzas (all day)
— Wednesday, June 13 – 50 percent off order (excluding lunch buffet)
— Thursday, June 14 – 50 cents for order of breadsticks (all day)
— Friday, June 15 – $5 lunch buffet, including drink and tax (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
— Saturday, June 16 – $15 Mama’s-sized (20 inch) two-topping pizza (all day)
— Sunday, June 17 – $19.68 two large (16 inch) one-topping pizzas (all day)
Originally opened in 1968 on East Rosedale Street by Ed Stebbins, a student at Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth-based Mama’s Pizza is marking its 50th anniversary this year with a celebration June 11-17.
Elizabeth Biggs managed the Rosedale restaurant for 18 years, where she became known as “Mama.” The moniker stuck, and “Mama Biggs” became an East side legend and then a brand that has remained successful though the twists and turns of the Texas economy.
After Biggs, owner Chris Farkas and his father, Frank, expanded the business to several locations across North Texas. After Chris Farkas’s sudden death, his godson Jordan Scott, 27 at the time, inherited the Berry Street location of Mama’s Pizza, and has since grown the company to six locations – three corporate and three franchise restaurants.
The Fort Worth Business Press talked with Scott about his experience in the business and the secret to Mama’s 50 years of success:
What did you learn from Chris Farkas about running the business before taking it on in 2003?
If you show the customer that they mean something to you, they’ll always come back … He worked in the stores his entire life and got to be familiar with most of his customers. I think that customers these days really appreciate when they’re acknowledged and you remember them and you show that you appreciate them. I think that our product is phenomenal but more important is that you show the customer that they mean something to you.
How’s the pizza business in Fort Worth changed over 50 years?
Obviously, the competition has gone through the ceiling, not only just in the pizza industry but in the restaurant industry across the board. And so you really have to have a superior product and great service in order to do well because there is so much competition out there right now. We consider ourself a traditional pizza and there are so many now different types of pizza that use so many options. You have the different types and that just makes you have to have your product be that much better so that people patronize your establishment rather than going to everybody else’s.
Has there been a change in the most popular pizza sold over the past five decades?
Well, I think [customers] want more of a variety now. Back in the day, it was pepperoni pizza, and a hamburger pizza, and veggies, your normal veggies. But now you have people wanting chicken on there, and basil on there, and having different sauces like Alfredo or maybe a barbecue chicken. And so you really have to find out what fits your product well and then gravitate toward changing a little bit, and we’ve done that. We’ve introduced some new items on our menu just to go with the times.
How many new things do you estimate that you’ll have added to your menu since you took over?
I would say we’ve probably added 15 to 20 items since I have taken over, which was in 2003. Not just pizza stuff but we added chicken wings … and we also now have a grilled chicken salad. We added a homemade cookie for dessert that we bake in house. We’ve added quite a few ingredients — a barbecue sauce for our barbecue chicken pizza, which is absolutely phenomenal, as well as the Alfredo sauce, which is becoming more popular, and then there are other toppings.
What would you say is your most popular pizza today?
I would just say your traditional pepperoni pizza. Everybody in the world knows pepperoni. If you’re a traditional pizza lover and you eat meat, you’re probably going to have a pepperoni slice at some time in your life.
Do you plan to keep the business in the family and what’s the secret to running the family business?
Well, my wife is actually five months pregnant so I hope to have an heir to keep this business in the family. I think that when you pass it along to someone that’s in your family, they’re probably more passionate about it because their name’s tied to it and has been for an extended period of time. I think they’re less eager to change your recipe, your product, because it’s something that’s been done for such a long time and it’s been handed down from generations before you. Chris taught me don’t fix something that’s not broken and we have a good product … You’re going to get a substantial pizza when you come to one of our places.
Honestly, it’s having the desire for someone in the family to want to run the business. You have to have someone that cares about it and wants to continue to operate a restaurant, which, it’s one of the hardest things in all of business is running a restaurant. If you have someone that doesn’t really care to do that, then it’s going to be a problem. Luckily, we haven’t had that issue at this point and like I said, hopefully, I’ll have an heir or a kiddo that wants to take over and do it as well.
Do you have any tips for restaurant owners as to how to stay in the business for so long?
I would say to simplify it as much as possible. You want to make a great product and not try to make it too difficult … Just simplify it. Have a great product and have even better customer service. Because if you have great customer service, that will go almost further than having a great product.
What are the best and worst business decisions you ever made?
One of best decisions I’ve ever made was to expand. When I opened my first location I was 27 years old and terrified that I was going to go start something and it may or may not succeed, and I was on the hook if it failed. It did well. It was the location in Arlington. We were greeted with open arms to the community out there and it did really, really well, and so that was probably the best decision.
The worst decision … I don’t know. I don’t know that I can pinpoint a worst decision. There have been times when I’ve given too much information to help other people out. I’m very willing to help people and maybe I go too far with that and it actually hurts me in the end.
What is the most important thing for people to know about you and your business?
I would say that I genuinely care about our customers and our product and our community. I’m born and raised in Fort Worth, went to TCU. I want Fort Worth to be as great as it possibly can, and if I can contribute to that by having a great product and serving the people of Fort Worth, then I think that I’ll have done my job and my godfather will be pleased looking down from up above.
What are your dreams for the next 50 years at Mama’s Pizza?
We would like to continue to expand, maybe open a few more franchises. We do have plans in the next year to open another corporate location. Just continue the name that everybody in the Fort Worth area has come to know and love, and maybe even expand further than that throughout the state so that other people can enjoy the great pizza that we have to offer.
What’s your personal favorite thing on the Mama’s menu?
Well, now it’s the barbecue chicken pizza, and the only reason we brought that in was because I like barbecue chicken pizza. I was tired of having to go to other places to get it. A couple of my managers found a really good mixture of sauce with chicken and bacon, and we put it all together and I love it. It’s just a little different sweet taste with our crust, and it’s really good.