Food & Drink

Shakey’s Pizza Was Once a Beer Garden, in Case You Didn’t Know

We revisit the remarkable journey of the country’s leading pizza chain.
IMAGE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Shakey’s has been one of the country’s go-to food joints for delicious thin-crust pizzas and addictive mojos. Despite the highly competitive restaurant scene, the brand has withstood changing tides and continues to be a place where family and friends make memories. Given this well-rooted position in the restaurant industry, Filipinos often associate the brand as being a homegrown one, when in fact, Shakey’s was founded in America—it just gained more traction in Asia. Here, we revisit the interesting history of Shakey’s Pizza from its humble beginnings in California to its flourishing market in the Philippines. 

The restaurant was founded by Sherwood “Shakey” Johnson and Ed Plummer in 1954. 

Shakey’s Pizza was founded on April 30, 1954, in Sacramento, California, where Johnson and Plummer remodeled a grocery store as the brand’s inaugural branch. Funnily enough, the establishment didn’t serve pizza on its opening day because the ovens weren’t functioning yet, so they only served beer. The sales from its beer went into completing the pizza ovens.

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Outside of Sacramento, Shakey’s made a name for itself not only through its iconic thin-crust pizza but as a venue for jazz music. Aside from giving local bands the stage to play their music, Shakey Johnson performed in the restaurant himself. It wasn’t long until a jazz revival occurred in Sacramento. The brand eventually expanded with numerous branches popping up in California, and by 1967, there were 272 Shakey’s stores across America.

In the ‘70s, the brand was largely associated with what it’s known for now: family fun. The picnic and party-loving character won hearts overseas as well. Its first international branch was in Winnipeg, Canada. By 1975, Shakey’s landed in Asian territory by setting up shop in Japan and in the Philippines.

In 1975, Shakey’s launched in the Philippines—but it promoted beer.  

San Miguel Corporation bought the U.S. brand and introduced it to the Philippine market to promote its beer, a drink that went with pizza and chicken. The first-ever Shakey’s was in Makati Avenue near the Rizal Theater. Soon enough, it multiplied its branches across Metro Manila. At this time, Shakey’s presented itself as a beer joint where one can also be treated to live music; however, this brand image was inconsistent, leaving customers confused. For years, Shakey’s was known as a beer garden, even after new management had taken the helm.

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Shakey’s competed with fast-food giants well into the ‘90s. 

After realizing that food retail wasn’t its strong suit, San Miguel Corporation sold the brand to International Family Food Services, Inc. (IFFSI), a company led by sports executive Leo Prieto. But even under a new management team, the pizza chain brand continued to struggle against big competitors like McDonald’s and Jollibee.

In 2003, the brand went into overhaul mode. 

After coming to terms with its positioning crisis, the management, led by chief executive officer Vicente L. Gregorio, decided to give Shakey’s a facelift. Its beer-centered, fast-food chain-approach was repositioned into the Shakey’s we know and love now: a pizza chain where family fun takes place. This strategy proved to be an effective one, as sales started to skyrocket well into the next decade. By 2012, Shakey’s had earned a revenue of P4.6 billion from a meager P1 billion in 2003—not bad. 

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Shakey’s was listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange under the ticker, PIZZA.

In 2016, the Century Pacific Group, the holding company of the Po family, and the Singapore-based GIC Private Limited acquired the majority shares of IFFSI. The Prieto family retained a minority stake in the brand. This acquisition also included Bakemasters, Inc., a supplier of bakery products to Shakey’s, as well as the Philippine franchise for now-defunct Project Pie.

In October of the same year, the successful pizza chain was listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange under IFFSI’s new name, Shakey’s Pizza Asia Ventures Inc. (SPAVI). A feat for a then-fledgling pizza chain.

Currently, the Philippines is Shakey’s largest market.

By the end of 2018, Shakey’s had 229 stores nationwide, a large number compared to the U.S. market, which only boasts 58 stores. Despite its well-earned position as the country’s leading pizza chain, Shakey’s has no plans of slowing down—the company has an annual target of 20 new stores.

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Fun fact: Shakey’s also owns Peri-Peri. 

Back in April, SPAVI announced that it will be acquiring Peri-Peri Charcoal Chicken. The acquisition officially took place in June, and Shakey’s has big expansion plans for Peri-Peri which was previously owned by Bryan Tiu of iFoods Group, Inc.

Shakey’s Philippines owns the rights to the Shakey’s brand in other parts of the world.

SPAVI bought the trademark and intellectual property rights from its U.S. mother brand, granting it royalty-free usage of the Shakey’s brand not only in the Philippines but in the Middle East, Asia (excluding Japan and Malaysia), China, India, Australia, and New Zealand. This augments SPAVI’s continuous efforts to reduce costs and increase margins. Shakey's Philippines operates stores in the Middle East.

From a struggling beer joint to a leading pizza chain, Shakey’s continues to aim for greater heights.

2019 has been a good year for the brand known for its crunchy thin-crust pizza. So far, it’s enjoying double-digit growth in terms of net income and revenue. It is also blazing trails by embracing sustainability through its partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). 

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