Puerto Rican entrepreneur taking risks to expand in Orlando with Piggza eatery
ORLANDO, FL — The new and unique restaurant Pigzza in this Central Florida city is a combination of energy, passion, and international food of two adventurous friends and owners of Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa and Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market. They expect to open it next September or October, they confirmed.
The restaurant will be at 1050 N. Mills Avenue, known as Mills 50 District in Orlando.
Puerto Rican businessman Thomas Ward bets on this new business venture “Pigzza,” together with Al Palo, owner of Stasio’s Italian Deli restaurant, a fusion of pizza and barbecued meats, from the first international barbecue restaurant Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa in Orlando.
“I think the pizza business is incredibly attractive and with the restaurant, I have focused on knowing who my customer is. For this reason, here we have BBQ, tacos, and international flavors, nothing traditional, I like to invent. I’m sure people are going to like this fusion of flavors,” said Ward.
The businessman works 12 hours a day, seven days a week and can work any position in his restaurant while he is making the plans to open his next eatery. The new location is close to Ward’s current restaurant — a “dream location” that he has wanted to rent for a long time when he established his first restaurant.
Ward spent time thinking about a new concept featuring no traditional food, then discussed his idea with his best friend, Palo, and since then started planning to reach that goal. They shared the news in Pig Floyd’s podcast called “Beyond the Smoke.”
“The experience has to be good, and we want to specialize in bringing more than normal and traditional pizza,” he said.
The project entails an estimated investment of $600,000 to $700,000 to open in a 1,500 square foot facility with a capacity for 80 people. It will have an outdoor space, thinking about what customers will want after the pandemic.
“You have to be super risky in business,” said 38-year-old Ward, smiling, when asked about the idea of launching a new restaurant after the pandemic hit.
In 2019, faced with the health crisis, he decided to close his location in Lake Nona and keep his location in downtown Orlando. However, the financial blow from the closure made him get creative and he came up with a concept of family meals for home delivery. An idea that turned out to be good for him to afford his BBQ business with international flavors.
“I had to make tough decisions, after seven years in business and in the face of the pandemic, we didn’t know what to expect, but we had to move forward,” Ward said.
COVID-19 meant reinvention
During the pandemic, Ward reinvented himself and created the $49.99 and $54.99 Family Meals delivery program in Orlando, Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville, and areas near Central Florida.
An offer that he only promoted through social media, “I had to survive the business, I saw the opportunity and it was to look for something like that to move forward.”
He left Orlando at 8 a.m. and returned at 11 p.m. with the satisfaction of the work accomplished, seeing it as “an opportunity to get ahead, there was no other [way].”
He drove his truck to make these deliveries with up to 50 orders for Miami, from April to June 1.
Ward, who started a hamburgers Food Truck in 2011 after watching videos on YouTube, was conquering his niche with his recipe for burgers inside two donuts. Little by little, he gained his loyal clientele, and his brand is already recognized in Orlando and beyond.
His goal is for the brand to be known and to grow with this concept.
“I am never satisfied; I am competitive with myself,” Ward said.
Ward is not a newbie in the businessworld, so he knows what the good and bad times have been, he knows the challenges well and although he has sometimes had to start over from scratch, that does not stop his entrepreneurial spirit.
“Failure is part of success, it is part of all this, without failure we don’t learn. I learned by taking — cantazos (hits). People are very afraid of failure. Failure is the best experience one can have. It teaches you a lot, to know who your real friends are, why this is important to you and what you don’t have to do,” he said.
“When I opened my first restaurant, they told me you’re crazy, and I wanted to do something different, a mix of BBQ with other flavors, thinking of doing something different. In a lot of traditional food businesses, people just think straight, you must be different. My concept is a mix of international flavors with flavors of regional BBQ,” he added.
He learned from his father, a businessman with a career in Puerto Rico, and since a young age, he was involved in the business sector.
“I started selling ice cream at the age of 13,” he recalled.
He came to the US mainland to study and graduated from Rollins College, then started investing in real estate, but the 2008 recession hit him hard, and he suffered a significant economic blow.
However, he decided to go to Puerto Rico and worked at Supermercados Selectos with his father for two years. Then his father fired him, something that Ward now admitted was the best lesson. So he decided to come to Florida and venture into business.
And some of the ambitious plans for his future include having 50 units of Pig Floyd’s, 50 units of Pigzza, and 50 units of Peggy Floyd’s restaurant, to serve breakfast and lunch in Florida or other states.
“There is great growth opportunity in South Florida, the market is bigger, there is a lot of potential,” he stated.