Home Run Inn is a family-owned and operated business specializing in pizza. Using the same original family recipe it’s been using for over 70 years, its fresh pizza is presently served at nine pizzeria locations in Chicago, while its frozen pizza line is available in over 40 states nationwide. Home Run Inn is dedicated to its customers and focused on always producing a quality and flavorful pizza.
Home Run Inn was established in 1923, when immigrants from Bari, Italy, Mary and Vincent Grittani, opened a small tavern on Chicago’s South Side. “There was a neighborhood park across the street from the tavern, and when kids hit home run baseballs, they would come across the street and hit our tavern. That is how the name Home Run Inn came about,” says Gina Bolger, Senior VP of Branding and great granddaughter to the Grittanis.
“In 1947, our grandfather, Nick Perrino, who came over from Bari, Italy at the age of 18 years old, partnered with our great grandmother, Mary, to come up with the Home Run Inn pizza recipe that is known today,” says Gina. “Our recipe is quite different from the average pizza recipe. The crust is the most unique part, as we use a backwards process that was the norm back in Bari, Italy when making bread/crust.”
At Home Run Inn, the owners originally started putting the pizza out in squares, as samples on the bar, as they served people drinks. “It was kind of like how we use popcorn or pretzels on a bar these days,” says Gina. “And after doing this for a while, customers were actually coming in for the pizza and not just for drinks, so it was decided to start charging for pizza. This is how Home Run Inn pizza got started and also why we cut our pizzas in squares as opposed to pie-cut.”
Home Run Inn is dedicated to family. “It has always been about family,” says Renee Storie, Director of Culture and Development for Home Run Inn. “We are a family-owned and operated business, and we care deeply about our employees and their families, as well as our customers,” she says.
“We treat all our employees like family; many have been here for over 25 years, which is just amazing! We all work hard and have great passion and pride in our product,” says Renee. “Our core values are Family, Grit, Integrity and Pride. These are values that we live and breathe every day.”
One aspect that sets Home Run Inn apart from other restaurants is its focus on quality. “We will never cut corners on our pizza recipe or preparation as this makes us who we are and sets us apart from all competition,” says Mike Kelly, VP of Operations for Home Run Inn. “Our pizza recipe is the same as it was in 1947 and we follow all the same steps in preparing our pizzas from scratch daily. We make our own dough, sauce, sausage and even grind fresh mozzarella cheese daily to ensure freshness and consistency. All these ingredients are all natural and as premium as it comes,” he shares.
“For our frozen pizzas, we actually take the time to cook the pizzas half-way, to lock in the freshness, and then flash freeze them,” says Mike. “It’s an expensive and timely process but we wouldn’t have it any other way. Our pizzas’ quality and flavor is what has made us famous here in Chicago and we will never sacrifice this.”
Home Run Inn offers “pizza with integrity”. “We want to give our customers the best quality available in the market place,” says Renee. “It stands for everything we are – a family-run business with integrity, about our customers and employees.”
The restaurant industry is an extremely competitive one, and Home Run Inn has had its share of challenges. “Today, there are ways to have any type of food you’d like delivered. This affects both our restaurants and our frozen line as people can get delivery of any food at any time,” says Paul Brill, IT Director of Home Run Inn. “So, we are constantly innovating and evolving our ways to keep up with current market trends, food delivery options and online ordering for our restaurants.”
Unfortunately, frozen food in general has a negative connotation these days, which has created another challenge. “When customers think of frozen food, they often think it is not as fresh,” says Mike. “This is not the case, but companies have done a good job marketing fresh food. The frozen pizza category is currently on a decline; however, we’ve been doing very well and still growing in these conditions. We believe it’s because people do see value in our quality and flavor versus the competitors.”
Home Run Inn’s greatest marketing method is word-of-mouth from its customers. “But social media is also a great tool for us,” says Gina. “It enables us to have open conversations with our customers and to hear about what they’re looking for. They (our customers) provide great feedback and we love to interact and come up with fun creative content for them. We currently are running a recipe contest which showcases how to top your pizza in different ways for summer time.”
Home Run Inn is proud of all it has accomplished over the years and is very excited about its new restaurant opening up in Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood. “We tend to open one to two restaurants a year around Chicago,” says Mike. “We recently hit 32 percent market share in Chicago, which is the largest frozen pizza market in the country. We were really proud of this as the closest competitors are nine to ten percent market share.”
“We’re a family business that has both restaurants and frozen pizza,” says Gina. “There’s not another competitor out in the pizza world that has this exact combination.”
Home Run Inn aims to continue to focus on expanding its frozen food sector in the Midwest market. “We hope to move across the country,” says Mike. “We are working toward reaching a five percent National Market Share. As restaurants, we are evolving with online ordering and delivery, and we’re keeping our eyes open for the next big thing.”
As Home Run Inn continues to grow, it plans to continue abiding by the high standards set by its original owners back in 1923, in treating staff and customers like family and using only the best high quality ingredients and care when making its pizzas.