A Wholly new expansion for bagel king

WELLINGTON FLAVOUR: Wholly Bagels & Pizza co-owner Colin Jones says the time is ripe for expanding the franchise to Auckland.
WELLINGTON FLAVOUR: Wholly Bagels & Pizza co-owner Colin Jones says the time is ripe for expanding the franchise to Auckland.

Longstanding Wellington eatery chain Wholly Bagels & Pizza is looking at expanding into Auckland, a year after opening its first Tauranga store.

Wholly Bagels - which added "& Pizza" to its name recently - has been a Wellington institution serving up coffee and bagels since its first shop opened at Midlands Park in the late 1990s. It now serves so many customers at its six inner-city stores, a site in Lower Hutt and another in Tauranga that it goes through 100 kilograms of cream cheese every week.

Ex-Guthrie Bowron general manager Colin Jones and former Guthrie Bowron New Zealand franchise owner Peter Drury bought the business in October 2010. At the time they purchased the rights to Wholly Bagels, a franchise at Palmerston North had just failed costing the local council more than $40,000 in rent debts that had to be written off.

However, the pair who helped boost the Guthrie Bowron brand from having 19 stores to 56 have injected new energy, a new website, new signage and an iPhone ordering app into the bagel and pizza company.

The pizza portion of the business - with New Zealand's largest thin-base New York style pies - is growing steadily, including by-the-slice sales.

"It is a very good brand," Jones said. "The main reason we looked at buying it was because it is scalable and the New York-style thin base pizza we felt was a great product, and we could take the business to Auckland. It has taken us a little while to get all the procedures in place and make sure systems are in place, because it's a local business, but we have spent a lot of time with suppliers making sure we could take it to the Auckland market," Jones said.

The store already has fans further up the North Island, with 33 "likes" for the Facebook group "Bring Wholly Bagels To Auckland - we want a decent bagel store in Auckland" that customers formed after trying the product while visiting Wellington.

"Recently we had a lady wanting to take a pizza back to Auckland on the plane with her, but the 20-inch box was too big," Jones said.

"Bagels are still our main business but pizza is where we think the growth is. Wellingtonians love and trust our bagels, we've just got to get them to experiment and try our pizzas."

The bagels and pizza dough are made by The Bagel Bakery in the Hutt Valley and delivered fresh twice daily to the stores around Wellington. Because the bagels have no preservatives, what doesn't sell each day has to be thrown out. When the business launches in Auckland, the same supplier will send up frozen bagels that can be baked in-store.

"The customers have made the brand what it is today - we have very passionate bagel lovers in Wellington," Jones said. Plain bagels were the top sellers ahead of the more exotic flavours such as chocolate chip, rock salt or tomato basil. In the filled bagels range, the Big Schnitz stuffed with chicken schnitzel, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, salsa relish and mayonnaise was the most popular.

The Dominion Post