PHOENIX — Michael Merendino, the owner of Crust Restaurant Group, said a few years ago that he wanted to open one new location around the Valley every year until he had 10 stores. In 2023, the expansion efforts sped up when he opened two locations of a new concept that wasn't in the original growth plan.
In revisiting that previous conversation with the Business Journal this week, Merendino said that over the summer he heard a rumor that the local owners of the Artichoke Pizza chain were looking to sell their three Valley locations and he decided to buy two – Phoenix and Tempe – and branded them as Crust Pizzeria.
In 2024, Merendino's goal is to refocus the Crust Pizzeria brand in 2024 and make it a go-to neighborhood gathering spot while offering high-quality wings and the lowest price point among his competition. Chicken wing prices can be quite volatile, but Merendino said he isn’t worried.