New $8 million restaurant near Washington Square will have grand opening March 29
From the bold primary colors to the sheer size of it, you can't miss John's Incredible Pizza.
The first of its kind outside of California, the massive pizza and entertainment restaurant opened last week and is gearing up for a grand opening celebration March 29. The restaurant is located in the Washington Green Shopping Center on Hall Boulevard in a 48,000-square-foot space that used to house a Circuit City.
Owner and founder John Parlet said he believes his restaurant will be a destination stop for families from all over the area. A new venue for indoor entertainment seemed like a good match for a rainy climate and Parlet said the community fit the other demographics he looks for when choosing a site.
'We want to continue growing, and this was a good opportunity to get a good location at a reasonable price in a market where we think we will like what we're doing,' Parlet said.
Despite the sluggish economy, the founder said he is ready to take the next step in growing his business, and the Oregon location is the first stop on his journey to become a nationally recognized chain.
'You know, every time you open one of these, there are some fears,' he explained. 'When you invest nearly $8 million in a concept anywhere (there are fears). But we've tried to do our homework, and we honestly feel that this is a great area to be in. The Portland area is a vibrant market.'
Getting away from the noisy game room
Parlet opened his first John's Pizza, a much smaller-scale parlor, in the Mojave Desert in 1972.
'I went to a little city that didn't have a pizza parlor. That was my little, unscientific way of succeeding. And it worked,' Parlet said.
The entrepreneur later opened a handful of other pizzerias and even designed restaurant software called RapidFire, which is currently used by more than 1,000 restaurants.
Years later he retired but said he got bored playing golf.
In 1997, Parlet opened the first John's Incredible Pizza in Victorville, Calif., admitting he was inspired by Chuck E. Cheese and expanded on that well-known concept, most notably by separating the dining experience from the noisy game room.
'I took what I felt they'd done right and corrected what I thought needed to be changed,' he said.
Parlet created five themed dining rooms so customers could have whatever kind of experience they wanted. There's a hunting lodge room with wood beams, antler chandeliers and a stone fireplace; a sports-themed room with baseball, basketball and football trivia and giant TV screens for watching games; a room called 'Fusion' with radical art and music videos and a colorful room for cozying up and watching cartoons. The Beaverton location is the first to feature a room called 'Funology' dedicated to science and discovery.
Despite the high-concept experience, Parlet said that John's is a restaurant 'first and foremost.' Once inside customers take their pick along all-you-can-eat salad, pizza, pasta and dessert stations. John's serves 18 pizzas at a time, including nine specialty pizzas with flavors like macaroni and cheese, garlic and pesto, alfredo or nacho cheese. Other pies veer into even more creative territory, like the pepperoni, peanut butter and sausage dish. Parlet said he began serving pizzas featuring peanut butter at his first pizzeria in the 1970s as a gimmick because he couldn't afford marketing.
'That was a way to get people to talk about us,' he said. 'It literally and configuratively stuck.'
On the other side of the kitchen (thus on the other side of thick walls) is the colossal game room with video games, bumper cars, a swinging plane ride and a laser maze in addition to traditional game room fare like hoop shoots, ski ball and more.
Parlet said the most popular feature is the Twister ride, an amusement park-style flying ride.
The games all take tokens and many spit out tickets, which customers can exchange for prizes ranging from bouncy balls and pencils to puzzles, giant boxing gloves and Barbie dolls.
It takes a lot of employees to manage the games, prize counter, restaurant and nine party rooms. The Beaverton location employs 180 people and will probably have 50 or so on hand during busy weekends. Parlet said his philosophy is for his staff to focus on three 'nesses:' friendliness, cleanliness and freshness.
'Our goal is to have all three nesses in that order,' he said.