Brixx Wood Fired Pizza + Craft Bar focuses on house-made ingredients to stand out | 1-on-1 with Pizza Leadership

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza + Craft Bar makes the majority of its items in-house. Yes, labor is intensive, but the quality of food is outstanding and sets the brand apart from others in the region.

| by Mandy Wolf Detwiler — Managing Editor, Networld Media Group

The year was 1998, and Jeff Van Dyke and his partners Eric Horsley and Barbara Morgan already had several restaurant concepts in Charlotte, North Carolina. What could the bring to market that wasn’t already over done in their area? The had experience in elevated dining concepts, but had never run a pizzeria before.

Jeff Van Dyke, co-founder of Brixx Wood FIred Pizza + Craft Bar. Provided.

They wanted to “take out all the hassles and keep all the fun of the restaurant business,” Van Dyke said in a Zoom interview with Pizza Marketplace. “We didn’t want to take reservations, we didn’t want a lot of people in there trying to impress their clients. We just wanted a fun, positive-energy place. So Brixx has always been attractive across many groups. It’s sophisticated enough to where you can come have a business lunch but at night it’s got enough energy and noise where you don’t have to worry about your kids. … But it’s also a good date night place.”

In June, Brixx Wood Fired Pizza + Craft Bar will celebrate its 25th anniversary. “That first store is still going strong, still in existence,” said Van Dyke. The first location had 12 beers on tap which Van Dyke said in 1998 was a good number.

The brand opened a second location just a year to a year-and-a-half later. That second location had 24 beers on tap, and that’s the number they’ve stuck with since. They knew they were ready to open a second store after getting operations in line at the first store, including consistency and cost of goods sold.

“We had also worked together in a previous restaurant concept, so we had a group of people we could pull from and have good, strong managers in both stores,” Van Dyke said. “So that’s why we took the leap.”

Van Dyke said the operators wanted to streamline operations as much as possible with the first store having just 2,000 square feet. The kitchens are built around the brand’s flagship brick ovens and a six-burner oven stove. The cost of good sold were lower than his other more polished, upscale establishments.

“As important as any of that was, it cost about half to build a Brixx,” Van Dyke said. The stores didn’t need the high-end finishes used in his other restaurants and the footprint was smaller.

Scott Isaacs, senior vice president of operations, said he joined the company because “it has a great business model, meaning that it’s financially vibrant, and the food quality is outstanding. That excites me from a visionary standpoint.”

Scott Isaacs, senior vice president of operations. Provided.

Today company has 10 corporate and 12 franchised units.

In the kitchen

“We are a made-from-scratch kitchen,” Isaacs said. “It makes (kitchen operations) more complex but worth it. We are mindful of that and use that as a filter, especially on a go-forward basis. Whatever we do, the filter is the guest experience and the food quality first and foremost, and it also helps with the financial vibrance of the business model.”

Dough is made in-house, as is focaccia bread, crostini, croutons and salad dressings. All the marinades and sauces are made from scratch as well. “And it pays dividends,” Isaacs added. “I can tell you that our guest experience results from a social media platform indicate that our food scores are a cut above the rest. … We want to be known as a concept that’s made from fresh ingredients and it drives the guest experience, so the quality of food is first and foremost. Any time that we mess with the formula, we have to use the filter of quality of food and so we’re not willing to compromise our quality of food now or in the future.”

For example, Van Dyke said they use a cheese out of Wisconsin that is more expensive but the pizza is better. In fact, it’s the top seller for the brand. Isaacs estimates pizza accounts for 60-70% of sales.

Dough is made from 00 Italian flour and it is hand-stretched and tossed, so it comes out crisp with a nice, chewy edge, Van Dyke explained. They’ve opted to use high-temp Woodstone ovens since the opening of the second store.

The care and thought process going into that dough is proprietary, but Isaacs said it also “yields great dividends from a taste standpoint. Everything from the toppings to the cheese that Jeff mentioned that we source to the process of the dough and how we make that in advance – the proofing process – it’s very methodical, and it definitely pays off.”

Topping the charts is the 4×4 Pizza, and it features four meats — sausage, pepperoni, prosciutto and bacon – and four cheeses — mozzarella, parmesan, gouda and goat cheese – on an olive oil base. The Bronx Bomber is a favorite as well and includes spicy Italian sausage, prosciutto, mozzarella and gorgonzola on tomato sauce topped with fresh oregano. A basic pepperoni pizza isn’t even on the menu but rounds out the top three bestsellers.

Salads are also good sellers for the brand, and the Brixx Salad with a spring mix with pistachios, crumbled goat cheese and croutons tossed with house-made balsamic vinaigrette is popular with customers.



Maintaining consistency across the brand as Brixx has grown has been challenging, but there are strict auditing systems in place for their director of operations to adhere to the standard of Brixx on a minimum of a quarterly basis and inspections on a monthly basis, Isaacs said. A good working relationship with franchisees is also important when it comes to consistency, as is working with the corporate restaurants.

Working with round deck ovens that take center stage in the pizzeria has required proper training for Brixx pizziolos. It has a gas flame as well as burning wood, which makes it much more user friendly, Dyke said.

“We’ve got the wood for flavor, but we can control the temperature of the deck,” he said, adding that they usually burn hickory or white oak.

Like so many other restaurants, hiring and retention remain Brixx’s biggest challenge. The brand is fighting a tight labor pool that is loosening up as the pandemic wanes. They’re not just looking for people – they’re looking for talent.

“It is slowly getting better, but we’re not there yet,” Isaacs said. After COVID-19, Van Dyke brought Isaacs on board to tighten up the ship, so to speak. That includes a new director of hiring who is creating a number of certified trainers as well.

Currently, it’s Isaacs’ job to make sure the infrastructure is built so they can aggressively grow the franchise side of the business. “My target for that is the end of 2023,” Isaacs said, “or the first quarter of 2024. If we can do it quicker, great, but that’s kind of our goal.”

They’re aggressively looking at the Southeast, especially Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.

“I think along the way we’ll see a lot of organic growth,” Isaacs said. ‘Right now, it’s all about the building the infrastructure with the right people at the right place in the right time.”

Mandy Wolf Detwiler is the managing editor at Networld Media Group and the site editor for and She has more than 20 years’ experience covering food, people and places.
An award-winning print journalist, Mandy brings more than 20 years’ experience to Networld Media Group. She has spent nearly two decades covering the pizza industry, from independent pizzerias to multi-unit chains and every size business in between. Mandy has been featured on the Food Network and has won numerous awards for her coverage of the restaurant industry. She has an insatiable appetite for learning, and can tell you where to find the best slices in the country after spending 15 years traveling and eating pizza for a living. 

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