The Detroit-style pizza company recruits the Del Frisco’s veteran to lead the hot, booming brand
Lehi, UT (RestaurantNews.com) Via 313 Pizzeria, famous for its genuine Detroit-style pizza, has named Ray Risley as its Chief Executive Officer. Risley is the former President and COO of Front Burner Restaurant Group’s Whiskey Cake Kitchen & Bar brand. Prior to that, he was the President of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse.
At Front Burner, Risley was responsible for building its executive leadership team and overseeing 12 locations that generated system-wide sales of $85 million. At Del Frisco’s — where he spent nearly two decades of his career — he led 13 Double Eagle Steakhouse locations with over $176 million in annual revenue, and he oversaw one of the highest AUV chain of restaurants in the country (a staggering $14.1M per location). Additionally, he owned a sports bar in Texas for five years, and he was the general manager of the original Spago — where he worked alongside the iconic Wolfgang Puck.
The industry veteran — who NRN twice named one of the most influential restaurant executives in the country — is honored to lead Via 313 and work with its founders, Brandon and Zane Hunt, as well as Via 313’s primary investor, Savory Fund.
“I am humbled to be named CEO of Via 313. When I met Shauna and Andrew Smith of Savory, I found it to be such a special organization. I’m inspired by their positivity, knowledge, approach, and the staggering success they have achieved,” Ray Risley said. “I was equally impressed by Zane and Brandon Hunt. Their humble nature — while being virtuosos of Detroit-style pizza — is nothing short of incredible. I knew right away this was the perfect spot for me. I appreciate the opportunity to run and grow this impeccable brand, and I look forward to an amazing ride with the Via and Savory teams.”
Risley’s vast experience will be put to powerful use as Via 313 is fired up and ready to expand. It already has 11 locations, with 18+ more to come in the next two years.
“We made the decision late last year to start the search for our CEO, and while it was an exhaustive process, we were humbled and blown away by the candidates,” said brothers Brandon and Zane Hunt, who originally started Via 313 in Austin, Texas in 2011. “Ultimately, Ray was the right person to guide Via 313 into our explosive growth plan. This is an important step for us and our team, and it comes at a critical time as we are scaling quickly into new markets. Ray’s track record of success with building great teams, passion for hospitality, and company culture make him an ideal fit for Via 313. We had a wonderful team before — it’s just been solidified with bringing Ray onboard.”
“If I had to choose my last meal, I would choose pizza. And not just any pizza — a ‘Detroiter’ at Via 313 Pizzeria. It is hands down the best pizza in the nation,” said Andrew K. Smith, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Savory Fund. “This brand is special to me, and it needed an exceptional leader to execute the incredible growth we have scheduled for 2023 and beyond. The first time I met Ray, we shared our love for the Via 313 brand, the unmatched quality of the product, and the opportunity it has to redefine the sit-down pizza game. I have complete confidence Ray is the leader who will do just that. We are honored to have him join the Via 313 and Savory team.”
About Via 313
Before Detroit-style pizza became a hit outside of the Motor City, trailblazers Brandon and Zane Hunt decided to bring their hometown pizza to Austin, Texas. Since 2011, they’ve built an Austin icon that locals and tourists flock to for genuine Detroit-style pizza. Via 313 currently operates seven full-service restaurants and two permanently placed trailers throughout Austin and the Salt Lake City area, with several more locations in the pipeline. Via 313 was dubbed “one of the very best pizzas” by Food and Wine Magazine, named “Independent Pizzeria of the Year” by Pizza Today™ and recognized as one of the “Top 10 Pizzas in America” by Food Network. For more information, visit via313.com or follow Via 313 on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
About Savory Fund
Savory Fund is an innovative private equity firm that combines over $600 million in assets under management with a growth playbook and expertise that has been developed over 15 years of operating in the restaurant industry. Savory partners with high-potential, profitable, emerging restaurant brands, to deliver financial capital, industry expertise, growth and revenue opportunities, profitability enhancements and new location development. The Savory team contributes directly to all aspects of growth and replication by using a proven playbook and methodology. Founder involvement in the expansion of a brand is a central theme of the Savory approach as founders carry the tribal knowledge around the uniqueness that has energized early success and is essential to future growth. The Savory Fund has invested in 10 brands: Swig, R&R BBQ, Pincho, Via 313 Pizzeria, The Crack Shack, Mo’ Bettahs Hawaiian Style Food, 86 Repairs, Saigon Hustle, Hash Kitchen, and The Sicilian Butcher. For more information, visit SavoryFund.com.