When it comes to offering up monster pizzas and finger-licking good wings, new pizzeria Big Mannys’ is where it’s at. Julia Bryce caught up with the team to find out more…
When the team at Big Mannys’ Pizza launched their business on October 30 last year, they never envisioned that three months later they’d be looking for new premises to keep up with demand.
Based in The Adams on Holburn Street, the independent firm focuses on offering big American style pizzas for their customers. Having initially been established to service the kitchen of the pub, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the business has only operated as a takeaway.
Operated by brothers Phillip and Ashley Adams who own the pub, and freelance chef Calum Wright of Food Done Wright, the trio have brought the giant American pizzas to the masses, cooking up around 2,000 pies a week now.
Food writer Julia Bryce caught up with the team over a slice of pizza to find out more…
You’ve seen huge success from Big Mannys’ in a short period of time, why did you decide to focus on pizza?
Phillip said: “We had a vacant kitchen in the pub and my brother and I were keen on doing something involving pizza. We’d worked with Calum before and wanted him involved in the project. The idea was pizza and it so happened that Calum had this new dough recipe ready. He experimented with it in my domestic oven and he showed us he could do an excellent American style pizza. We wanted a quirky brand to go with it so decided on Big Mannys’.
“We got together around August and went live on October 30. There was a lot of planning for the business going on prior to that and we had to figure out what we needed the kitchen to work like. We wanted something that would sit well in the pub but could also do takeaway.
“We also had numerous meetings with The Bread Maker about the dough as we needed someone to supply us with Calum’s recipe regularly on mass, too. They have been phenomenal in getting us everything we need, even when we have sold out or run out of dough. We have truckloads coming from them now.”
Calum added: “I’d originally pitched burgers to the guys but we decided to go for American style pizza. I wanted something to rival Domino’s on flavour and experience. The pizza market in Aberdeen and Scotland was saturated with Italian style pizzas so we decided to do something different.”
And Ashley couldn’t agree more when it comes to offering ‘something different’.
He said: “The idea for that size and style of pizza really came from Costco. We have a similar oven to Costco and can cater for mass orders. They were the only people doing the big slice – which is something when we reopen the pub we’ll be offering to customers. One massive slice from a 18-inch pizza which has been cut into six. Everything is just bigger and better.”
What have the past three months been like?
“It has grown from being busy at the weekend and having some dough just in our fridges to being insanely busy and having to purchase bakers’ fridges just for the dough alone. We’ve had to restructure the whole kitchen,” said Phillip.
“On our first night we were running on an app called OrderBee and we had it set up to take an order every 15 minutes. As soon as we turned it on within seconds we had 100 orders. We weren’t expecting that and had a lot of patient customers over the first month. We couldn’t believe the demand.”
Calum added: “Last weekend we had our record weekend. We’ve been busier every week in January than any other month and continue to smash our targets. That’s unheard of in my time in working in hospitality. We are now at the stage of needing a third oven so we have one arriving next week, but have managed to borrow one for the meantime. If the bar had been open this month we’d never have been able to service both sets of customers, so we know we have to make changes to accommodate demand.
“The oven has a capacity of 60 12-inch pizzas an hour and we’re hitting that every weekend during the time we’re open. We can’t squeeze another pizza on there. We had a customer asking if the two-hour wait was real and yes, it is. The conveyer oven ensures every pizza is cooked exactly the same – it takes around seven minutes to make and cook one pizza.”
You launched an 18-inch pizza which couldn’t be delivered by most food delivery services, how have you got around this?
Ashley said: “We wanted to offer that big American slice. It’s so different from what anyone else is doing. I guess we’re called Big Mannys’ so we’re all about going big. The 18-inch pizzas are so popular and people are looking to mainly purchase them.
“We felt like something had happened because we were getting so many orders for the 18-inch ones and realised that everyone was posting Boomerangs of opening their white branded boxes and revealing their pizzas on Instagram. That really helped us take off.
“We actually ran out of 18-inch boxes and there was none in the UK as we’d wiped out all the suppliers. We had to get a palette sent from China over recently.
“The delivery platforms we use (Deliveroo and Just Eat) can’t handle the size of the 18″ one. We have had to get our own delivery driver to be able to deliver them locally. We’ll eventually start using more of our own drivers to get the bigger style to customers doors.”
Instagram has been a huge driver for your success, why do you think that is?
“Calum already had a massive following on his Food Done Wright food page and I think the brand really lends itself to social media. All of our success is definitely off the back of Instagram and being able to get access to our customers almost immediately,” said Phillip.
“We’re able to assess where our orders are coming from and a lot of them come via Instagram. We’re constantly updating it and just want to keep people engaged. The customer comes on a journey with us as well with our posts.”
You’ve got eight pizzas on the menu, how did you decide what flavours would make it onto it?
Calum said: “The base needed to be really good so it could stand on its own. For the first few months we wanted to keep a consistent menu and have now started to add a new pizza or two onto the menu. We’ve now got a barbecue version and a Philly cheese steak pizza as well. We launched a sweet one called Mud Pie with hazelnut spread and icing sugar on it, but for any new pizzas coming we’ll have to take another off so we don’t complicate things too much.
“We keep an eye on trends to see what is popular and what flavours are going to be big, and it is just doing things people haven’t seen before like the Philly cheese version which doesn’t have marinara sauce on it. You also know what flavours you like and if you’ve been abroad you can get inspiration from what other countries are doing.
“We’ll look to do more collaboration pizzas like the Tilly cheese steak pizza which we did with Lurch Monster’s Tilly Butcher in Aberdeen. The second collaboration is coming soon and it has been great to work with other local firms to showcase their products.”
Let’s talk about your chicken wings. They have been incredibly popular, what does the demand for them look like?
“The wings were only ever meant to be a side dish, an addition to the Big Mannys’ experience, but they have just taken off as much as the pizza. Our suppliers can’t keep up with our demand for wings,” said Ashley.
“We get through around over a quarter tonne of wings delivered every weekend. They are oven baked so are a bit healthier but it is very much pizza and wings. Just like Five Guys is known for burgers and fries, we’re known for pizza and wings. Some people will just order wings as we serve them in 12, 24 and 36 pieces. They sell out all the time and we’re now only trying to give customers drums as they are much bigger and very filling.”
You started off just the three of you, have you had to add to your team?
Calum said: “The team have been incredible. They have continuously helped us figure out how to get the best product and the best systems in place and they have just been amazing. They are super busy all of the time, but they love it.
“It is so nice seeing everyone working together. We have seven in the kitchen and one delivery driver, as well as the three of us. The team has grown a lot in a short space of time so it is great to be able to be creating work for people. We’re at the stage where we can fully trust what they are doing and can now start to take a step back.
“It is insane to think we had customers queueing up at this grey door around the corner from the pub entrance to pick up their pizzas when we first opened – socially distanced of course. They would just turn up and post pictures on social media saying ‘if you know, you know’. We now have branding on the door but it was really this initial cult-type feeling of being in the Big Manny’s club.”
What’s next? I hear there’s another premises on the horizon?
“We’re now looking for a second unit to keep up with demand. It has been incredible how well it has done. We’ve kind of been forced into it so we can actually service all the customers,” said Phillip.
“The super unit will be in a different area of Aberdeen and will be just focused on takeaway, so it will take some pressure off the kitchen in the bar so that we can ensure every customer is being looked after, including those ordering food in the premises when we can finally reopen.
“The other site will hopefully be open come summer and we’ll be able to service another part of Aberdeen, too. We also need a third oven for the current premises but the ovens we will be getting for the other premises will be massive.”
Ashley added: “It has been a fast but hard journey. The kitchen is just constantly busy and we are fully aware of how hard our team are working.”