Azzip Pizza cooks fresh, custom meals

Helen Edna, sophomore in Business, cuts a freshly made pizza at Azzip Pizza on September 29, 2015.

By Lillian Barkley

There’s a new option for fresh, fast food on campus.

Azzip Pizza opened on Sept. 9 at 505 E. Green St. in Champaign and boasts a 2 minute and 20 second cooking time for its pizzas.

“We’re thrilled to have the chance to bring a new, exciting concept to Champaign and the University of Illinois,” said Brad Niemeier, who founded the business after winning the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition at Purdue University in 2012.

After opening two restaurants in Evansville, Indiana, Niemeier wanted to branch out.

“Looking around at different universities that are close to us, it really just made the most sense,” he said. “It’s a great student population; it’s all very compact right on Green Street. I couldn’t ask for a better location.”

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    He said keeping the franchise within the Big Ten was partially a coincidence, but the high foot traffic and large student population was a draw.

    The resemblance between Purdue’s colors and Azzip’s black and yellow color scheme is also a coincidence, Neimeier said.

    “I didn’t want it to be the traditional Italian flag colors,” he said. “I wanted it to be something different because it’s not your traditional pizza place.”

    Neimeier’s favorite restaurant at Purdue was Chipotle, and his favorite food is pizza, so he decided to merge the two. His business plan focuses on food transparency and high-quality ingredients.

    “We like to have our oven showcased right in the middle. We like to have people be part of our process,” said Champaign general manager Eric Dvorachek. “We don’t like to hide anything from people.”

    Azzip Pizza’s ingredients are sourced from local businesses, like Smoky’s House BBQ, which supplies their pulled pork. Since the business is based in Evansville, many of its ingredients come from Indiana. The chicken is from Gerber’s Amish Farm, which means it’s antibiotic-free.

    “We’re very proud of the way we make and prepare each of our ingredients and our pizzas,” Dvorachek said.

    Following the Chipotle model, customers can choose from 15 toppings and six house-made sauces, so the pizza is easily customizable.

    “We don’t limit you on number of sauces,” Niemeier said. “They’re all free, and we encourage you to mix it up.”

    The set-up can be complicated for new customers, Dvorachek said.

    “The first time I came here, I didn’t really know what to expect, but the people were really helpful,” said Garrett Williams, senior in ACES. “Also, their cookies are like 50 cents, which is a plus, and they’re fresh baked.”

    The restaurant also has an option to make half of the pizza into breadsticks and add a salad.

    “I just thought it was very reasonably priced, and you get a lot of options,” Williams said.

    Dvorachek had a University actuarial science major calculate all of the possible orders, and said she came up with 16.77 million different orders.

    “We’re constantly coming up with new, fun pizzas to keep it interesting,” Neimeier said. “Our philosophy is to keep it simple as possible, so we’re not trying to have the most ingredients out of anybody, but we want to introduce new ingredients on a monthly basis to keep it interesting.”

    Azzip’s combination for the University is the “Orange and Bleu,” a buffalo chicken pizza with bleu cheese, which will be available during October.

    Although Azzip hasn’t done much large-scale advertising, employees have handed out samples on Green Street and distributed 1,000 buy-one-get-one coupons for the Pygmalion Festival.

    Some students may have also found Azzip on Tinder. The profile tells users they can “get it hot, fresh and steaming.”

    “It all makes people think about your brand and think, ‘That looks fun, I might try that,’” Dvorachek said.

    Now that the restaurant has a permanent sign, Dvorachek said he will start doing larger-scale advertising to get customers to try Azzip.

    “Because no one knows who Azzip Pizza is here in town, they haven’t given us a shot yet,” he said. “Once people try the product, they’ll see what we’re about. They’re going to enjoy it.”

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