The article on this page will tell you about Pizza Rock Taiwan story, and show you how we went from a tiny pizza shop in Taichung to the fastest-growing gourmet pizza chain in Taiwan – we currently have 30 Pizza Rock branches in Taiwan.
This video was produced for an ad campaign we ran in 2017 after opening our 16th branch in Northern Taiwan, in Zhubei City.
If you want to check our menu, locations, business hours, delivery areas, and even more pictures, please visit our official website for Pizza Rock Taiwan!
How / where did Pizza Rock start?
I started Pizza Rock in Taiwan in December 2011 with my wife Ruby. We decided to open our first branch in Taichung City, because that’s where I’ve lived for 16 years, and that’s where my wife’s family is from. We also figured that if we wanted to eventually open more branches around Taiwan, Taichung would make the perfect “basecamp” due to its central location on the island. Today, I’m very happy we made that decision as it’s much easier for us to build new shops and manage them from here. Our main office is still located on the second floor of our first restaurant on Jing Cheng Rd.
How Pizza Rock Taiwan started…
At first, we knew absolutely NOTHING about opening and managing a restaurant, but Ruby and I had a big dream: We’re going to get married and start our own business… Let’s open a pizza shop! Great idea! But there was a problem… Neither of us knew how to make pizza. So we decided to travel to Italy, where my family is from, to eat as much pizza as possible, and try to learn what makes a great pie!
Traveling around Italy to learn about pizza and pizza making was fun but it was seriously hard on the system. You simply can’t eat pizza 3 times a day, every day. At the end of our first trip, it had become quite painful as you can see from this picture. I remember that particular pizza very well because it was the third one I had to eat IN THE SAME NIGHT! I finished it completely, and I could barely walk back to my hotel after that.
Time to commit and build it now…
Back in Taiwan, armed with recipes and a good amount of knowledge about pizza, it was time to find a location for our first restaurant. First we thought about opening shop in Hualien City, then decided that Taichung would be better. This (below) is the place we found for Pizza Rock 1. As you can see from this picture, we needed to create a restaurant from scratch and do everything: blueprint, electricity, woodwork, lights, painting, decoration, patio, seats configuration, signage… Again, neither of us knew anything about interior design or how to setup a kitchen or dining room.
Somehow, we managed to create this space in just under 6 weeks with the help of an electrician and an old Taiwanese carpenter and his wife.
The main challenge: little cash!
The biggest challenges we faced during the construction of our first shop was that we had very little money, so our options for building materials, equipments, and expensive bling-bling were very limited. In the end I believe it was a good thing to be limited on resources and cash – it forced us to keep everything simple and uncluttered, and only focus on the essential.
Had we had a bigger budget to start with, maybe Pizza Rock would have looked completely different. We would probably have built it bigger. Sometimes less is better. Too much can create confusion as to what you’re trying to build, or express. I wanted to have a clean and simple place where people could eat pizza and listen to good rock music with their friends and family.
Meanwhile, back home, at 2:00am
The techniques I had witnessed from watching pizzaiolos (Italian pizza-makers), and the pizzas I had eaten from Rome to Naples, were not enough to truly learn how to make pizza. Theory is important and essential, but practice is what holds everything together. Mastery only comes by getting your hands dirty.
As the store was being built during the day, Ruby and I would source ingredients from suppliers in Taichung and Taipei. At first we thought this part was going to be easy, but we soon realised that REAL fresh mozzarella, and REAL cured meat can’t be found at every street corner in Taiwan.
Ruby spent countless hours online / on the phone, ordering ingredients which were mostly from Italy, Spain, the States, New Zealand, even Argentina. She really did an excellent job at finding the best ingredients available. Without her resourcefulness, our first menu would not have been that great.
Our little kitchen in our apartment quickly became my “pizza lab” where I experimented with different flours, toppings, and cheese. For an entire month, I would get back home around midnight, make dough by hand (for the next day), and try different recipes. By 2 or 3am, I would bake 4-5 small pizzas in my small Costco oven and wake Ruby up so she could taste them. That lifestyle was insane and I did start having white hair during that period. It was crazy and tiring, but such was the price to succeed.
The night before Grand Opening
Some say that risk is: “jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”
Creating Pizza Rock was exactly like that for us. We put every single penny we had into the construction, the equipment, food, drinks, and we announced our grand opening on December 24 2011.
I’ll tell you a little secret… I unwrapped my oven at Pizza Rock 1 only the day before the grand opening. How crazy is that! Up until that moment, I had only used my small home oven and baked pan pizzas. The night before the opening, I decided it might be a good idea to try to bake some pizzas in our commercial oven on our thick stone.
My first try was a disaster and I don’t even want to talk about it. It was a shameful moment and I’m happy nobody was there to witness that. 5 minutes after my first experiment with that powerful oven, I had walked out of the kitchen in a state of panic, I went straight to 7-11 and bought myself a couple of beers to calm down. I kept telling myself: “You f****** idiot! You put all your money and your newly-wed wife’s money in that place, you can’t even bake a proper pizza, AND YOUR GRAND OPENING IS IN A FEW HOURS!!!”
You have to be a little nuts to succeed
Many people think I am a little crazy. Some think I am a lot. I’ve never denied those claims – especially not that night before the grand opening. I was thinking: “No sane person would do that! It’s not logic to put everything on the line like that and risk EVERYTHING without knowing if you can do it or not.” That night I knew I was crazy for real but I didn’t care – I had to make something happen, I had to learn how to bake pizza in a commercial oven, on a stone, in a few hours, before my friends, Ruby’s family, and customers started walking through our door for our official opening.
Praying for Pizza Rock
The morning of Pizza Rock 1 grand opening, we had a little traditional Chinese praying session on our patio with our two only employees. I’m not that much into praying – especially not to Chinese gods – but I remember seriously wishing, hoping, praying, BEGGING for a miracle. “Please whoever is up there or out there, be with me today, I can’t bake pizza! I have no clue what I’m doing!”
Miracles DO happen!
Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step.”
From the moment Ruby and I decided to open Pizza Rock, from the moment we booked our tickets to Italy, that is exactly what we kept doing EVERY DAY to move toward our goal: Every day we took a step in blind faith, trusting that the universe would somehow carry us to our dream.
Without knowing exactly HOW we would make it, we kept on RELENTLESSLY moving forward through challenges and the unknown and this is what happened:
Just like magic, that first day, on our grand opening, the pizzas I baked were stunningly beautiful, delicious, and everyone gave us raving reviews! I know they were not just being polite. I could see on their face after taking a bite that they REALLY liked the pies! I was also personally super happy with my crust and the overall taste. The universe had twisted itself in a way which conspired to make us go through that unlikely success on our first day.
Right from the start, we became enormously popular and we had to hire more staff to serve an ever-increasing amount of customers.
One of our first goals was achieved much faster than we had anticipated: Ruby was able to quit her full-time job to spend all her time with me at Pizza Rock.
After one year of raging business, we decide to expand and open Pizza Rock 2 on Chong De Rd, in Beitun District. Again, this store was an instant success.
In 2014, we opened Pizza Rock 3 on Wenxin Road, in Taichung.
Me, making the first pizza at Pizza Rock Wenxin.
My good friend Sean drew some cool stuff on the walls at Pizza Rock Wenxin.
Ruby and I went to Bangkok, Thailand to buy some decoration for Pizza Rock Wenxin’s basement. During that trip, I was stuck to my computer 24h a day to get everything ready for the grand opening. I was on the computer even while getting foot massage on the street…
While riding taxis…
Even in bed!
This is the result from our trip to Thailand. We were only able to get some rock’n roll T-shirts. I originally had in mind to turn that room into some sort of hippie style, flower power den from the 70s, but couldn’t find what I was looking for in Bangkok. Regardless, I’m still very happy with the result.
A construction worker taking a nap at Pizza Rock Wenxin.
Our sign outside Pizza Rock Wenxin.
The secret is not just in the sauce… Our secret is in our people! One of our missions is to always provide the friendliest service in Taiwan!
One month after opening Pizza Rock 3, we opened Pizza Rock 4, on Zhong Gang Rd, in Taichung.
The dining room at Pizza Rock Zhong Gang branch.
Rock’n Roll pictures on the wall at Pizza Rock Zhong Gang branch.
In 2015, we opened our first Pizza Rock restaurant outside Taichung City, in Changhua. This was our 5th branch and it was also a mad success from the second we opened our doors to customers!
Tom, the pizzaiolo at Pizza Rock Changhua.
2 weeks after opening our Changhua branch, we opened our 6th branch in Taiping District, Taichung. This is the line up we had all day during the grand opening.
In the summer of 2015, we opened our first branch in the Taipei area, in Xinzhuang. This was our 7th branch, and that’s when I considered Pizza Rock to be in the major league.
Baking the first pizza at PR7, Xinzhuang branch, summer 2015.
Our team of dedicated partners at Pizza Rock Xinzhuang.
Ruby, training new staff at Pizza Rock Xinzhuang.
My partner and good friend Wiki, baking pies at PR Xinzhuang.
Our second branch in New Taipei City, Yonghe. This is our biggest restaurant so far, total seating capacity is near 60 people, including the 2nd floor, and it is always fully packed at night and on weekends.
Our Yonghe store is so busy that we cannot offer delivery service (yet) and it’s our only branch which has to close in the afternoon to prep and get ready for dinner.
Our president, Ruby, comfortably checking the measurement for the blueprint of PR Hsinchu.
Our first customer at Pizza Rock Hsinchu (9th branch) was a beautiful 91 year-old lady! It was such an honor to serve her!
Me with two of our partners at Pizza Rock 10 in Yuanlin City.
Pizza Rock Taoyuan (11th branch), on Zhongshan Road, near the train station.
Our energetic team of superstars at Pizza Rock 12 in Kaohsiung City。
My office goes wherever there is a new store to open. Here, I setup my basecamp for a few weeks at the construction site of Pizza Rock 13 (BaDe Branch) in downtown Taipei.
Our commitment, our strength
The only reason why we are able to grow our business like we are doing, is because we are fully, completely, 100% committed to the people who come into contact with us: our customers and our partners (employees and franchisees).
By focusing on our people, we are able to create a friendly atmosphere where everyone is happy to learn how to make great food and provide excellent service. By staying “real” and not treating the business like a machine or a system, like so many restaurant chains do, we are able to nurture and expand our community of dedicated friends and partners without having too many rules – which limit creativity.
It’s easy to start a business when you are ready to give up some parts of your personal life to see it grow and succeed. The hardest part is to stay focused on what truly matters and to be able to remain committed to the basics.
Following this recipe, we hope to be able to expand Pizza Rock to all corners of Taiwan, to Hualien, Ilan, Taitung, and other small towns where thin-crust pizza is not available yet.
I really hope that you’ll take or make the time to visit us one day, when you visit Taiwan!