HELL has never done anything mainstream – from a first floor space with no frontage, dodgy access and a tiny kitchen, creator Callum Davies began serving up his own brand of pizza. “There was nothing calculated at all, no gap in the market that Callum was trying to fill, he just loved creating great-tasting food,” said GM Ben Cumming. “And we’ve been doing that ever since”.
In fact, HELL celebrates its 20th anniversary next year; and Davies is still at the helm, along with long-time friend and partner Stu McMillan.
Concerned first and foremost with customer experience over profit, HELL differs from mainstream pizza outlets. “We aren’t really concerned with competition, we just do our thing and hope our customers approve. Most of the time they do, no matter how ‘out there’ we go” said Cummings.
Last year, the gourmet pizza market became even more adventurous with HELL’s ‘Wild Pizza Series’, offering kangaroo, rabbit, wild boar and venison. HELL’s customers were anything but put off - they embraced the Series and HELL achieved record sales in the months that the series ran.
HELL’s customers look a lot like their management - mostly premium earners, lovers of a challenge, adventurous and fun-loving. In keeping with that demographic, HELL is interested in any trends or technology that could enhance their brand – “way back when” they were the first company to offer mobile EFTPOS for delivery, and they are currently working on an iPhone app that should be ready to roll out next year.
HELL responds to dietary requirements more than food trends and product quality is always a top priority. Gluten-free bases are becoming more and more popular and dairy –free cheeses are an option for vegans.
“Cos pizza without cheese just isn’t the same” said Cummings. (All vegetarian options have been approved by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society.) The latest development is free range ingredients on all their pizzas - yet another example of HELL’s commitment to taste and quality.
There is no doubt that HELL’s continued success is attributed to a constant focus on customer experience; hands-on New Zealand-based ownership and a management team that has risen through the ranks – Cumming himself started as a delivery driver for that very first store.
Their business philosophy is perfectly reflected by their advertising: theatrical and edgy, challenging and maverick but always calculated, genuine and fun.