The Aussie meat pie has made it to Times Square, New York! With Australia’s Pie Face chain opening their flagship American store on the 26th of January – Australia Day. More than 50 stores are planned in New York and nationwide pie domination is in the works. Pie Face gave Billabout Facebook fans the chance to win some pies and the Billabout crew mobbed their la-di-da launch party at the Mondrian Hotel in Soho. Here’s our chat with Pie Face founder Wayne Homschek:
Why bring Pie Face to NY now?
We get so many Americans in our stores in Sydney who e-mail and hit our website saying “Can you please bring Pie Face to the states?” So we’ve had a lot of interest out of the American travelers and for us, NYC is the epitome – it’s where there’s the most traffic, it’s a 24-hour city, it’s really what Pie Face is all about. Plus as a company because we felt we were ready and had the right infrastructure to do it, and do it well.
Are there plans for West Coast stores?
Yes, we’re going to do NYC well first with probably 50 stores in NY, and then we’ll branch out into other cities – Chicago, Boston, LA, and from there we’ll see. Given the Pie Face format and the 24-hours-a-day convenience, we could do a lot in New York before we have to think about going elsewhere.
An American by birth, you actually lived in Australia for 23 years, is it like a second homecoming being back?
I was always looking for a reason to spend time back in the states because my family is all still here, so I always wanted to be able to spend time here with our kids. It’s a great thing to be able to come here and be productive, rather than just come for a vacation.
Do you remember the first pie that you ever had?
It was a chicken pot pie in Atlanta when I was 10 years old; my mother used to put them in the oven for lunchtime, but that probably doesn’t qualify as a proper meat pie. In Australia…I can’t remember! I should, but I don’t! I wasn’t a big pie eater before we started Pie Face I must admit, but I’m sure I had them.
What’s the etiquette to eating a pie correctly? With a knife or a fork? With sauce or without sauce?
With your hand, but we actually invented something called a “Pie Pack” which means the pie slides into it and then you fold it away so you can eat it by hand without making too much of a mess. We think that’s the correct way: in a pie pack, on the go. Or in a stack box with mash and gravy on top of it, because we serve the pie with mash and gravy and we put it in a proper box. Either one of those two suffices.
Will Australia Pie Face continue?
We’re planning on floating there in 2013 and we’re still planning on opening a few more stores a month. That rollout hasn’t changed, NYC is just a nice addition to the gross strategy. It’s really going to be just the US and Australia for now, and then we’ll move on to Japan and the UK eventually.
Do Americans need to be educated on the meat pie experience?
That was the big question before we opened but honestly, we’re selling more pies here both in percentage terms and absolute terms in our first store within the first week than we sell in any Australian store on any week. I think the Americans pick up on it straight away; they get portability, they get chicken-steak, they like comfort food, so it’s not hard!
How did the launch on Australia Day go?
It worked out well. If we had our way, we would have opened for Thanksgiving, but the store took a while to get built, so as things slowed down, we worked out that Australia Day was obviously the best time to launch it.
What’s your favourite pie out of all the Pie Face pies?
I like the new Mexican pie, which we just started doing in the US and we’re launching it in Australia next month. It’s spicy and it’s got ground beef; it’s a bit traditional Aussie but it’s got that Mexican kick to it!
We hear the Pie Face coffees are pretty potent?
There are different strengths to wake you up in different degrees – we call it “Wake Me Up” coffee. We have “Tingle my toes”, “Open my eyes”, “Start my heart” and “Kick my arse”. Kick my arse is like Red Bull, it’s got a wired Pie Face with black X’s.
As a part Aussie part American what’s your most favourite thing to do in New York City?
I love running down near the Statue of Liberty in the morning while the suns coming up, along the Hudson River Park down by Battery Park City. It’s kind of like my run in Bondi [laughing] only it’s colder here you’ve got to put on all the leggings and the gloves.
GET YOUR PIE FACE ON!