Justin Lussier co-founded Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria with Christian Bullock and Jason Allard in 2007 and turned up the heat on expansion at what is now a 20-location franchised pizza chain.
The company ranked No. 6 on Business in Vancouver’s 2013 Top 100 list of fastest-growing companies, with $25.2 million in 2012 system-wide sales and a 1,682% growth rate for sales between 2008 and 2012.
Lussier’s first experiment with a hospitality business came in 1999, just as he was starting university at the University of Alberta. He invested his first student loan into opening the Burgundy Room in Edmonton, and he operated that bar for two years.
He then focused on his studies while helping manage Bullock’s pub Nicholby’s. Sales soared at the pub, which would later be rebranded Canadian Brewhouse.
“Success came from executing service, food and atmosphere,” Lussier said. “It also came from getting to know customers’ names and what makes them tick. When we first started Famoso, I had a list in my pocket of customers’ names. It got up to more than 50.”
Famoso attracted a loyal following that convinced investors to start coming out of the woodwork, eager to pump their own money into his venture.
Instead of selling equity, Lussier wrote down Famoso’s systems and started selling franchises.
“We moved the head office to Vancouver four years ago because we wanted to be in a major market,” he said. “In Vancouver or Toronto, you’re more exposed to competition and trends. You don’t get that in a small market.”
In early 2012, he had five franchises and his corporately owned store. Those six locations sprouted to 15 by the beginning of 2013. He now has 20 locations and expects to have 28 restaurants by fall 2014.
Outside work, Lussier plays hockey and spends time with wife Polina. The two expect their first child in January.