The Untold Truth Of Pita Pit

What started as a single-location restaurant in a university town in Canada has now become an international food franchise, serving Lebanese food to hungry customers across the globe. If you've never patronized a Pita Pit, the restaurant serves pitas, a Mediterranean bread stuffed with meats, cheeses, vegetables, and sauces to create an epic sandwich.

Customers can choose from Pita Pit's menu of sandwiches, but they're also allowed to create their own. The restaurant also serves soups, salads, bowls, and smoothies at select locations, among other items.

Pita Pit is a successful restaurant chain, earning an estimated $143 million per year, per Growjo, and there's a Pita Pit location in nearly every state in the union. Despite its popularity, there's still a great amount to learn about this franchise. From its humble beginnings in Canada to its wild growth across the globe, this is the untold truth of Pita Pit.

Pita Pit was started as a way to keep college students healthy

Although it's now heralded as a healthy fast food option, that was not the restaurant's intention when Pita Pit first opened. The Canadian-based Lebanese restaurant chain was opened in 1995 by partners Nelson Lang and John Sotiriadis. "I just liked the food," Lang told Financial Post about his idea for Pita Pit.

The founders wanted their restaurant to be a convenient way for college kids to eat nutritious food while maintaining their busy schedules. "We decided to use the Lebanese-style pita bread — when you roll it up, nothing falls out — so it was a lot easier for a college kid to carry it, throw it in a knapsack over their shoulder and go off to class. It's just a great portable food," Lang added. With $32,000, Lang and Sotiriadis opened the first Pita Pit in Kingston, Ontario, a university town.

One of Pita Pit's main appeals is its nutritional value, which is debated. Many of the chain's options are high in protein and low in calories, but they contain high amounts of sodium and fat. Stuff notes that the best route when ordering at Pita Pit is opting for its fresh vegetables and meats over its processed meats.

Pita Pit expanded by 100 locations in one country over the course of a decade

Although there are different ways to monitor success, some could say that Pita Pit was successful from the beginning. As co-founder Nelson Lang said to Financial Post, "There was no payroll, just John and myself. We did $350,000 in sales the first year, and it went from there." Not bad for a restaurant's first year in business. Now, almost 30 years later, the franchise has over 600 locations internationally.

Though popular across the world, Pita Pit is particularly popular in some countries. In its first 10 years of operation in New Zealand, the franchise experienced massive growth by expanding to 100 different locations, per Stuff. "I guess we're proud of that because a lot of people could've just thrown in the towel after a year or two," Chris Henderson, New Zealand director, said about the chain's growth.

Pita Pit franchisees warn that this type of success is not easy. "Unless you're prepared to live the franchise and work at the way they tell you, don't bother," Grant Henderson, a New Zealand Pita Pit owner, said of his commitment. "I'm still passionate about the brand, otherwise I wouldn't be opening another store."

Its menu meets many dietary preferences

If you have dietary restrictions, feel free to go to Pita Pit and enjoy a meal. There you'll be able to find dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan options. If you're ordering online, you can still be confident placing your order thanks to Pita Pit's Allergen Guide, which notes which menu items are suitable for consumption based on specific allergies and dietary preferences.

If you're gluten-free, there's a soy-based wrap available instead of the restaurant's typical white or wheat pita options. If you're vegan or vegetarian, you can order a veggie pita with lots of options for fillings, including all their spreads, as each is plant-based. Unfortunately, Pita Pit's entire menu doesn't meet certain dietary preferences. Vegans should avoid the restaurant's cheeses, smoothies, cookies, and most soups, as those contain milk.

There is one dietary need Pita Pit highlights that most other restaurants don't. Back in 2015, Pita Pits in New Zealand posted guides that identify which options on its menu are best for people with diabetes. Some of these choices included gluten-free pita, grilled chicken or steak, and sauces like aïoli or tzatziki, among other items. Pita Pit noted that this menu isn't just for people who have diabetes, though. These are great options for anyone looking to have a healthier meal, as told by Stuff.

Pita Pit is committed to sustainability

If you only care to patronize restaurants committed to sustainability, add Pita Pit to your list of great choices. The restaurant chain has a page on its website that details its commitment to sustainability, particularly animal welfare.

Pita Pit has declared that its chicken producers will meet the Global Animal Partnership's animal welfare standards by 2024 and that the rest of its meat producers will meet the standards by 2030. The Global Animal Partnership is an international nonprofit that promotes the ethical treatment of animals used for food. It doles out certifications to different farms and businesses according to its standards, grading each one on its performance.

Sustainability isn't Pita Pit's only concern; it's also passionate about providing healthier school lunches for children. Through its school lunch program, Pita Pit gives schools the opportunity to serve its food for lunch, and it's flexible with the price and structure for ordering. Per Scoop Independent News, Pita Pit now provides over 45,000 school lunches each week to students across New Zealand, feeding over 11,000 children in 50 schools.

Some locations closed due to COVID-19, but others opened during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the restaurant world. Per The Washington Post, over 72,000 restaurants in the United States closed when the coronavirus was sweeping the nation. Although that's far less than the initial prediction for restaurant closures, it's still a harrowing figure.

Pita Pit was not immune to the widespread closures, and local business owners across the world were forced to shut down their franchises both temporarily and permanently. One Pita Pit franchise in Bettendorf, Iowa, had been open since 2016 but couldn't keep its business alive past October 2020.

"It's all Covid. This is a relatively busy store, generally. Covid kind of hurt that drastically. We've been holding on as long as we could. We're finally at the point when it's just not feasible for us anymore," former co-owner Chris Wenzel told WQAD of its decision to close shop.

Although COVID-19 ruined business for some, others were able to open stores later in the pandemic. In Summit Township, Michigan, a Pita Pit location opened in August 2021. Per Go Erie, its citizens also welcomed a new food truck and an ice cream shop in the same month as Pita Pit.

Owning a Pita Pit can lead to other business ventures

Not just anybody can own a Pita Pit. It's a costly investment that requires lots of upfront capital, and those interested need to have at least $75,000 liquidity, per its website. But if you can open one, perhaps you can parlay that ownership into another business. 

For instance, Shawn Hope of Moose Jaw, Canada, owned a Pita Pit in the community for about 20 years, but in 2022 he sold his storefront and started Rise Cannabis, a marijuana shop, as told by Moose Jaw Today. Hope's goal is to change public opinion about marijuana and make people a little more open to it. "There's still a stigma, but if people are finding that helps them, then why shouldn't they be using it ... If it works for them then why not?" he told the news outlet.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Hope, or if you just want to open your own Pita Pit, Entrepreneur notes that it could be a safer investment route than others but warns that it is a major financial commitment. Those interested can seek more information at Foodtastic, Pita Pit's parent company.

It was the sight of a celebrity fight

Pita Pit does not have a record of being dangerous (or so we assume), but there was an incident back in 2015 involving Jamie Lynn Spears at one of its locations. The younger sister of pop icon Britney Spears and former star of Nickelodeon show "Zoey 101" visited a Los Angeles Pita Pit with a friend of hers, and per TMZ, the friend found herself in the middle of a physical fight.

To stop the madness, Spears went behind the counter and grabbed a knife, which she proceeded to wave around while yelling at the participants to stop. The brawl ended without any harm to Spears, and per video footage, she did not need to actually use her knife, though it proved a good impetus for a cease-fire.

Spears is not the only celebrity who's been involved in a fight at a restaurant. Justin Bieber and Orlando Bloom reportedly got into it while at a restaurant in Ibiza in 2014, and George Clooney fought with model Fabio at a restaurant, as told by Today. Spears's actions at Pita Pit look downright heroic compared to the petty rumblings of grown men at sit-down establishments.

Shawn Mendes thinks Pita Pit is better in Canada than the United States

If you live in Canada, have a Pita Pit nearby, and trust Shawn Mendes's opinion, visit the establishment if you haven't already. Apparently, the restaurant's food is better up north than in the United States. Per his interview with the Toronto Star, the Canadian-born pop singer prefers Pita Pit in his home country to the establishments in the U.S. "They have Pita Pit in America, but it's not as good as it is in Canada," he shared when asked to name which place he thinks is the best.

Though we can't comment on the quality of the Canadian Pita Pit versus that of the United States, we do know that the menu varies a bit from country to country. For example, Pita Pit's Smoky BBQ Beef Brisket and Chicken Souvlaki are only available in Canada. That information alone makes us think Mendes might be correct.

Mendes isn't the first celebrity to note his love for a fast food chain. Kanye West loves KFC so much he rapped about it in his song "Touch the Sky." Even billionaire Bill Gates isn't above cheap food. The Microsoft mogul was spotted standing in line for Dick's Drive-In in Seattle.

Pita Pit is a sister company to Chocolato and Big Rig

Pita pit started as an independent restaurant, but in 2021 it was acquired by Foodtastic. "Pita Pit is one of the largest QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) brands in the country, and we are happy to welcome it into the Foodtastic Family. We look forward to working with all our new franchisees and growing the brand both in Canada and internationally," the president and CEO of Foodtastic Peter Mammas said to News Wire. Through this acquisition, Pita Pit joined other brands like Chocolato, Nickels, and Rotisseries Benny, among others.

2021 was a big year for Foodtastic. The restaurant franchise company also purchased Milestones, per Recipe Unlimited, the brand's former owner. The new owner of Milestones is a major company in Canada, owning over 700 restaurants and earning $700 million in annual sales, per News Wire.

And what does Pita Pit stand to gain from being acquired by a larger company? Per the U.S. Department of Commerce, an acquisition can give a company access to more funds and assets, introduce it to more customers, reduce costs, and accelerate growth. Should Foodtastic helm Pita Pit's ship in the right direction, the franchise could increase sales and continue expanding into new locations.

Pita Pit is an award-winning company

Though winning an award is not vital to running a successful business, it can help. Whether given a business renewed media coverage or bestows upon it a sought-after appellation, an award has the power to attract new customers and cement a brand within the community.

Pita Pit is no stranger to winning awards. In 2017, the Canadian-born company, per Business Insider, won a silver trophy award from QSR Magazine and the Foodservice Packaging Institute in honor of its eco-friendly packaging. Its packaging is an innovative material that doesn't require wax, rendering it recyclable. As noted, Pita Pit is dedicated to sustainability, as further evidenced by its green packaging.

As Pita Pit Canada's president Kevin Pressburger told the outlet, "This is a huge accomplishment for our growing brand ... This award also serves as further motivation as we look to continue to implement more sustainable solutions across Canada."

Having won an award as a company, Pita Pit knows how doling them internally out can boost morale. In 2017, Pita Pit Canada awarded its Franchisee of the Year award to Andrew Bridle, a Muskoka, Canada resident, as told by Muskoka Region. Bridle is ardently dedicated to using his position in the community to give back, which Pita Pit recognized, as well as operating multiple Pita Pit locations, among other businesses.

It's a leader in the mobile app space

In today's world, it pays for businesses, particularly restaurants, to have a mobile app. Per Oracle, the number of users who've ordered food via mobile app increased 36% from 2019 to 2022, and online food delivery revenue is projected to hit $130 billion by 2023. If a restaurant hasn't yet developed a mobile app, it should.

It's even more lucrative if you have a good mobile app. Almost every mobile user can cite at least one poor experience with an app, and it's especially frustrating when trying to order food. Pita Pit knows how important a good mobile app is for employees and customers. Since 2016 it's been focused on marketing its app to customers and improving their experience when using it.

"We are using social media to push app use and return use, to drive engagement and get more data," Pita Pit's digital marketing manager Jordy Patano told Fast Casual. The data Pita Pit gathered seems to lead to a pleasurable user experience, and its mobile app has 4.8 out of 5 stars on Apple.

Pita Pit notes that its app can be used for more than just ordering food. Customers can schedule delivery and pickup times, send digital gift cards, find Pita Pit locations, and even earn free meals on the app, among other things.