As a former Georgie Pie employee in the mid-90’s, I thought it wise that I lay down a few truths regarding any “come back” that may or may not happen.
For a start, while McDonald’s presumably holds the intellectual property for the pie recipes, the original plant is gone and they would be stuck trying to recreate a flavour profile without any of the original staff that ran that plant. So right off the bat, I would be shocked if the product tasted the same.
Hurdle #1: “This doesn’t taste like Georgie Pie!”
Georgie Pie was beloved for the value menu pricing they introduced – everything was $1/$2/$3/$4 etc. A whole pie for only ONE dollar? Madness! Wildly popular.
I started working at Georgie Pie when this was in full flight, and ours was a popular store. (Kelston, the first drive thru in New Zealand!). On Friday nights, the store would be fully staffed (store manager, shift manager, dedicated bake station, fry station, 2 or 3 on drive thru, and staff for as many registers as we had, plus a floater who would switch between restaurant clean up and backing up front counter), and we would still have queues out the door. Literally, out the door. On more than one occasion, while I was working the drive thru register, my till would be completely filled with cash. I couldn’t fit any more in and would have to dump some in a take-out bag under the till just to keep up.
But after the value menu pricing became unsustainable, prices went up. For the most part, this meant hardly any change. A $1 pie became $1.10, that sort of thing. Not a big change, but the customer backlash was HUGE. Those queues out the door? Never once saw them again. Customers, who for the last 15 years have been harping on about how much the loved Georgie Pie and how much they missed it, just stopped coming. That was the beginning of the end.
Hurdle #2: “How much? Georgie Pie is supposed to cost a dollar!”
This was the elephant in the room that truely doomed Georgie Pie. At it’s heart, it was an incredibly wasteful business, not because of any failings in the business processes, but simply by the very nature of the business. Pies aren’t like burgers or pizzas than can be cooked in minutes – while Georgie Pie used the same commercial conveyor ovens you’ll find at any pizza chain, the pies (which arrived frozen, with a pre-cooked filling but raw pastry) took 22 minutes to cook. With only limited space for these ovens (they’re BIG), you can only cook a certain amount of pies at once, so to prepare for a lunch or dinner rush, baking would start 2 hours in advance.
How would we know how much to bake? Crystal ball, magic runes, the way the wind was blowing? Nope, even back then in the dark ages of the 90’s, the computer told us. It was some kind of mainframe type system, where the PC in the store office connected to head office and printed out a daily bake sheet. This was based on months and years worth of sales data, and the bake sheet was individual for each store. It told us how many of each pie variety we should put on to bake at what time of the day, for the entire day. Most of the time, this worked fine. But often, it would go badly wrong, either leaving us with too many pies if it was a dead day, or not enough if it was busy. And because of that 22 minute bake time, it was very hard to ramp up quickly if we were running low. This annoyed customers obviously, but, because of dwindling sales figures, managers were reluctant to increase bake numbers, because more and more frequently, we’d be left with massive overage.
Georgie Pie was always a fairly wasteful business. Pies had a 3 hour lifespan from the time they came out of the oven. Once they hit that time, they would be written off and chucked out. If you ever paid attention to the packet your pie came in, it had a time code written on it – on EVERY pie. So on a quiet day, we’d be throwing out piles of pies. Ideally, 30 to 50 per day would be a reasonable number.
As someone who often worked close shifts (late night), I would often be doing these write-off sheets. If your close shift had a decent manager, they’d let staff take some pies home after they’d been written off. It was against company policy, but fuck it, they were only going in the rubbish compactor anyway right? Well let me describe the scale of the waste – on one night alone, I once took home over 300 cooked pies. THREE HUNDRED. I wasn’t the only staff member who took home pies that night. You better believe the boys were stoked when I turned up to their place after work and feed their stoned munchies with entire boxes of hot pies! The deep freeze at home was stocked with pies for over a 18 months after I stopped working there.
Hurdle #3: “Holy fuck this business is costing us a FORTUNE”