Update – 8:30 a.m., June 2 – Steve Salis, the co-founder and face of the popular regional restaurant chain &pizza, is no longer the CEO of the company, Bethesda Beat has learned.
Salis said he recently moved on from running the day-to-day operations of the company he started with Michael Lastoria in Washington, D.C., in 2012 for a “myriad of factors.”
He said the company plans to hire a new CEO. Lastoria remains the company’s president.
“Everything worked out just fine,” Salis said Friday. “It was planned for us to bring in somebody else to run the day-to-day.”
Salis said he remains a “significant stakeholder” in the business. “I thought the business was at the right point for us to bring in a blue chip, top-notch CEO to run the company,” Salis said and later added, “We did what was best for the business.”
“Michael and Steve founded a company and Steve’s moved on,” Barbara Martin, an &pizza spokeswoman, said about the change in leadership. Martin said Lastoria is currently also serving as the CEO. She countered what Salis said, saying that Lastoria is the CEO and the company is not currently looking for a new leader.
The CEO change comes after the company received a $10 million investment in February to fund the business’s expansion plans. The investment came from a private family investor, according to a March report in Nation’s Restaurant News. At the time, the publication reported the pizza company’s board of directors includes Sandy Beall, the founder and former CEO of Ruby Tuesday; Edward Albertian, CEO of City Sports Inc.; and John Barton, operating partner with the investment firm LNK Partners.
Salis said his decision to leave the CEO post did not have to do with the recent influx of funding the company has received.
The restaurant chain has three locations in Montgomery County—in downtown Bethesda, Dowtown Crown and Germantown. A fourth will open soon at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. Overall, the chain has 10 locations in the Washington area.
The Bethesda &pizza opened in May 2014 on Old Georgetown Road. When it opened, Salis was 31 and had played a major role in building the company from an idea that he had while living in New York City.
The company has built its brand on a community-minded, free-spirited concept in which each restaurant features a mural or some kind of connection to the neighborhood where it’s located. The company often refers to its employees as “tribe” members. The chain was one of the first fast-casual pizza restaurants to open in what has since become a nationwide trend.
In a 2014 interview with Bethesda Beat, Salis said expanding nationally is risky for a business because “you start to stretch yourself in a lot of areas,” He added: “Right now we’re focusing on building a definable brand in this area.”
Update – June 2 – Editor’s Note: Barbara Martin, the &pizza spokesperson said Tuesday that Michael Lastoria is serving as the company’s CEO. The story has been updated to reflect this new information.