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Brick Oven prepares for 60th anniversary by combining the future with the past

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Glee Zambrennan changed Stadium Lunch into Heaps of Pizza when he purchased the pizza restaurant in 1962. Now that restaurant is named Brick Oven and is celebrating its 60th anniversary in June. (Photo courtesy Brick Oven)

Glee Zumbrennen purchased Heaps of Pizza in 1962. Now that restaurant is named Brick Oven and is celebrating its 60th anniversary in June. (Photo courtesy Brick Oven)

Brick Oven is working to merge the future with the past in honor of its 60th anniversary in June. And just like any other business in it for the long haul, Brick Oven is getting a facelift.

Holding on to the family environment, Brick Oven’s remodel includes new booths, tables, paint, tile, wallpaper, decor, chairs and even work on the exterior to give the restaurant a more Italian Villa feel. The remodeling has been in progress for months in preparation for the anniversary celebration.

“We’re hoping to have all our remodel done by June so that we can celebrate our 60th anniversary,” said Dan George, director of operations for Brick Oven. “That’s really what this remodel is about. We’re just really trying to entice people to come in and celebrate with us.”

The building Brick Oven occupies has gone through expansions and remodels throughout the years: Brick Oven purchased surrounded business plots such as a neighboring barber shop, a meat packaging place and a small grocery store in order to expand the restaurant. And the restaurant itself has been through name changes to get to the family-centered atmosphere it claims as its primary identity today.

“Back in 1956, they said that 80 percent of the people that lived in Utah at the time really had no idea what a pizza was and nowadays 80 percent of people not only know pizza, but love pizza.” —Dan George, Brick Oven director of operations

Mama Mia, what’s a pizzeria?

In June 1956, Kent Heaps opened Brick Oven, only then it wasn’t called Brick Oven. It was Heaps of Pizza, a small restaurant that shared a building with other businesses. And pizza wasn’t as much of an American staple food as it is today, which was why the original restaurant only had 20 seats.

“Back in 1956, they said that 80 percent of the people that lived in Utah at the time really had no idea what a pizza was and nowadays 80 percent of people not only know pizza, but love pizza,” George said.

Pizza in Utah County grew in popularity, but Heaps didn’t stay in the business long. In 1962, Glee Zumbrennen, an employee who had worked at Heaps of Pizza since 1958, purchased Heaps of Pizza.

Now Brick Oven — which changed its name to Heaps Brick Oven in 1973 and finally switched to Brick Oven in 1988 — has 400 seats in the restaurant.

In 2008, Zumbrennen sold his business to CHB Development out of Bountiful, but he still stays involved to maintain the integrity of Brick Oven.

No place like home at Brick Oven

As Brick Oven acquired the other properties in its complex and expanded the restaurant, Zumbrennen saw a shift to a more family-focused environment. And the design of the restaurant is meant to accommodate families.

“That’s what we really excel at is being able to accommodate big families,” George said. “When you go into most restaurants, it’s an open cafeteria view from the host stand area. You can see almost the entire restaurant when you walk into an Applebee’s or a Chili’s. Glee did a really good job of making you feel like you’re at home….”

Brick Oven is remodeling the majority of its restaurant for its 60th anniversary in June. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

Brick Oven is remodeling the majority of its restaurant for its 60th anniversary in June. (Photo by Rebecca Lane)

Zumbrennen emphasized to his employees that the experience is important for the customer, pointing out that most guests only eat out a few times a month and eating out is often considered a special occassion.

“He’s really big on that sub-conscience mind of the guest. He wanted people to feel like everything about this place was desirable,” George said. “That it was welcoming, so that when they thought of the restaurant they wanted to go to every month, Brick Oven just naturally came up every single time.”

A shifting demographic

As the design of the restaurant focused on the family atmosphere, Brick Oven realized it was moving away from its original demographic — college students. The freshly made pizza couldn’t compete with the prices of a $5 Little Caeasar’s pizza even with the increased quality of the pizza, so Brick Oven created the College Loyalty Program.

Students can order any of the signature pizzas for half off as long as they show their card and student i.d. card when they pick up their order.

“We’re utilizing Infigo Films to promote our college loyalty programs,” George said. “It’s half off any of our signature pizzas as a takeout promotion only, so that college students can enjoy the benefit of our quality pizza when they can’t enjoy the full service experience, so that when they have their own family, they can come back and we can continue to appeal to the next generation.“

Breaking into new grounds, Brick Oven is teaming up with Infigo Films, a video production company, to make its first-ever commercials to reach their customers.

“Now their commercial on ‘Don’t Tolerate Bad Pizza’ has been their campaign theme,” George said. “They just gave us the final proof of the commercial and it’s really funny. I love their take on it. Hopefully it will help promote that College Loyalty Program even more.”

What change?

Even though Brick Oven has grown over the years, one thing stays constant for the restaurant — its menu.

“Our concept is built on the traditional aspect of our food mostly,” George said. “Where we build our concept — and it’s something Glee was very adamant about — was that the same pizza that you enjoyed as a little kid, even as early as the late 60s, you can enjoy that same recipe today.”

While Brick Oven tries to stick to the core menu of traditional pizzas, there have been some additions and changes with specials over the years. For example, the ever-so-popular 1956 dish, a tuna fish and green olive pizza, is no longer offered on the menu.

Plus, they’ve added the Heaps Sampler, so that people can try a taste of all the traditional pizzas that put Brick Oven on the map. The all-you-can-eat-buffet meal includes pizza, homemade bread sticks, cinnamon sticks and dessert pizzas all delivered to your table. Now, George says about 30 percent of guests order the Heaps Sampler.

“We wanted to expand on the service aspect of being able to give people a taste of every pizza,” George said.

Brick Oven will stay open as it continues its renovations through June. Then the 60th anniversary celebrations will begin with monthly themed deals.

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