Buddy’s Pizza, the Detroit-Style Pizza Originator, Names Its New CEO, Burton Heiss; Plans to Continue to Deliver on Promise of Flavorful Pizza for All



Heiss Will Replace Buddy’s Former Acting CEO, Jim Balis, of Backing Private Investment Group, CapitalSpring

Buddy's Pizza, the Detroit-Style Pizza Originator, Names Its New CEO, Burton Heiss; Plans to Continue to Deliver on Promise of Flavorful Pizza for AllThe Original Detroit-Style Pizza purveyor, Buddy’s Pizza, is ready to take a bite out of new markets thanks to the announcement of its new Chief Executive Officer, restaurant industry veteran and former Nando’s U.S. CEO, Burton Heiss. The pizza brand has been steadily leveraging an exciting development strategy since early 2018, when restaurant financier and private investment firm CapitalSpring acquired a majority stake in Buddy’s Pizza. Heiss will take over the reins from former acting CEO, Jim Balis, who remains the Head of CapitalSpring’s Strategic Operations Group.

In the last two years, CapitalSpring has laid the groundwork for continued growth of Buddy’s Pizza, including introducing back-of-house technology, a new point-of-sale (POS) system and delivery. Other locations include Michigan’s Grand Rapids, down river in Woodhaven and Plymouth. With momentum building in recent months, CapitalSpring knew it was time to bring on Heiss.

Heiss worked for half a decade as Vice President for Baja Fresh—a role in which he said he learned how to grow a team and scale operations—before serving as the CEO for the U.S. arm of peri-peri chicken chain, Nando’s, for eight years.

“It was definitely a challenge at the time, because here we were trying to grow Portuguese-South African fast casual fare in the U.S. market,” said Heiss. “But we did it. By the time I left, we’d grown the footprint from two to 40-plus locations.”

Heiss said he was drawn to Buddy’s thanks to “the brand’s palpable realness” and the opportunity to grow the beloved pizza concept into a new phase of growth and development.

“My focus was: ‘How do you protect the brand and guard against losing its essence, yet scale and grow into new markets and new opportunities?’” Heiss said. “That was much like what I navigated at Nando’s—and that, to me, was incredibly challenging yet also incredibly fulfilling. I see that same opportunity with Buddy’s.”

As of the end of August 2019, Buddy’s stood at 15 total locations, all presently corporate-owned. CapitalSpring has been at the helm for the preceding 20 months and, Heiss said, has focused on optimizing the partnership and fostering exceptional collaboration.

“The CapitalSpring team has a lot of experience in the space. I think they will stay closely involved and continue to offer insight,” Heiss said.

So what’s next for the Motor City pizza brand?

“We’re committed to focusing on what makes Buddy’s special and leaning into that,” Heiss emphasized. “We’re all about Original Detroit-Style Pizza and how can we expose more people to what we feel is a spectacular brand. I don’t see any limits to what we can do and where we can take Buddy’s. Again, because of our exceptional core product that’s unique and our verifiable provenance around Detroit-style pizza, it’s about how can we grow organically and with purpose.”

Heiss said that, under his leadership, the brand will continue to expand in Michigan while still looking for similar markets in the Midwest.

“It’s all part of our plan to take Detroit-style pizza nationwide,” said Heiss. “We’re already on our way.”

Founded in 2005, CapitalSpring is a private investment firm focused exclusively on the branded restaurant and food service industries. The Firm currently manages assets in excess of $1.4 billion and has completed investments in over 60 different restaurant brands and 5,000 restaurant locations. CapitalSpring focuses on supporting proven management teams with a range of structured credit and private equity solutions and has offices in Nashville, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York. For more information about CapitalSpring, please visit www.capitalspring.com.

In 1946, Buddy’s Pizza became the birthplace of the Original Detroit-Style Pizza. For more than seven decades, the restaurant has been feeding patrons and earning accolades from fans across the nation, including recognition from CBS This MorningUSA TodayZagat, Food Network, Pizza Today, Eater, Travel Channel, and more. Consistently voted Detroit’s number one pizza locally, regionally and nationally, the Farmington Hills-based restaurant remains true to its Detroit roots, legacy and traditions that began on the corner of Six Mile and Conant years ago. For more information, visit www.buddyspizza.com or connect with Buddy’s on Facebook (www.facebook.com/buddyspizza), Twitter (@BuddysPizza) and Instagram (@BuddysPizzaDET).