Amidst construction noises and chefs hustling around, Pizza Press owner Danny Hon surveys the monochromatic, newspaper-inspired interior with a wide smile. Carrying a light scent of freshly cut basil and crushed garlic, he moves between pristine countertops and patterned walls, greeting employees as they prepare for the restaurant’s grand opening.
The idea of owning a franchise had always been a dream of Hon’s since he began working with his parents in a Chinese restaurant in the late ‘80s.
His chance finally arrived when he started working with Pizza Press founder Dara Maleki. Hon began working with Maleki two years ago by supplying the restaurants with soda cups.
“I really bought into the franchisor, the founder,” Hon said. “At the end of the day, your franchisor is the one that’s the head of the train, so we really have to rely on him to keep the brand relevant, keep the brand growing. And I think (Maleki) is a man that’s capable of taking it all the way.”
For Hon, a Fullerton native, opening a franchise across the street from CSUF on Nutwood Avenue was an obvious choice. He felt comfortable in his hometown and saw it as a city finally reaching its potential, citing the popularity of downtown Fullerton, which did not exist when he was growing up.
“Every time I’ve come back, I’ve noticed the city itself growing and progressively getting better,” Hon said. “Hand in hand, I think that has a lot to do with the Cal State Fullerton system and how they’re growing.”
While the concept of “build-your-own-pizza” has been used by several other restaurants, Hon said that what sets the Pizza Press apart is its focus on its craft beer selection. The Pizza Press features 20 taps, 18 of which are dedicated to a rotating craft beer selection, with the other two dispensing Stumptown cold brew coffee and root beer.
Darien Hernandez, general manager of the Fullerton location, believes the strength of the Pizza Press lays in its customer service.
“We do offer a really good product, but it’s our customer service that takes us beyond that,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez, who has worked for Maleki since the opening of the first location, puts an emphasis on customer service and creating a rapport with restaurant regulars.
Tina Pham, a recently-hired employee and freshman at CSUF, recounted her initial impressions of the restaurant, citing its unique aesthetic and atmosphere.
“I just really like the decor,” Pham said. “It’s very sleek and there’s an old-timey feeling to it that’s really nice when you just sit down at the booths and you eat with your friends.”
Playing into its “news” themes, the Pizza Press’ menu includes items such as the Times, a variation on barbeque chicken pizza and the Chronicle, a vegetarian pizza finished with fresh basil and pesto sauce.
Hon plans to host events such as the Tap Takeover, where 10 to 15 of the taps are dedicated to brews from local breweries. Special brews will be featured, as well as giveaway events.
The Pizza Press’ grand opening takes place Saturday, Sept. 12. The restaurant will host the Great Pizza Giveaway, where customers can use their email addresses to sign up online for free pizza, served from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.