In 2007, longtime friends Brooks Roberts and Preston Lott opened a unique, small restaurant in the Delta city of Indianola with no plans past that one eatery.
But Lost Pizza Co.’s menu and campy atmosphere has quickly won patrons, and today the partners are casting their eyes on ever-expanding horizons.
“We never intended to open another restaurant,” Roberts said. “Lost Pizza has far exceeded any expectations.”
Roberts and Lott were childhood friends, growing up together in the Indianola area where Lott’s parents operate the longstanding Pea-Soup’s restaurant. Both boys grew up in the restaurant business, earning folding money both in high school and college.
While they loved the industry, both chose to study agriculture at Mississippi State University.
“We were just trying to make our parents happy I guess,” Roberts said with a chuckle.
The two began work in agricultural-related careers, but they weren’t satisfied. Roberts eventually relocated to the Virgin Islands and became a boat captain and scuba diver instructor.
However, the two stayed in touch, and they couldn’t shake the restaurant “bug.” During a visit to St. Croix, the two hammered out a concept, dubbing it Lost Dog Pizza after the pub where they met. (When looking into franchising, the men discovered that there was an eatery in Virginia named Lost Dog, so they shortened the name to Lost Pizza to avoid any potential confusion or litigation.)
Still, the two took their time. They spent a year going to food shows and experimenting with recipes after purchasing a pizza oven.
“We wanted everything to be just right when we opened,” Roberts said.
That homework paid off as Lost Pizza proved an immediate hit when it opened on U.S. Highway 82. Patrons enjoyed the menu as well as the ambiance that features blues memorabilia, folk art and the like.
“We make our sauces, dough and salad dressings by hand every day. We also use the best cheese available, and meats that have no filler or preservatives,” Roberts said. “We have a very eclectic atmosphere combining art, music and memorabilia.”
With the success in Indianola, the partners started mulling more restaurants. They subsequently opened eateries in Cleveland, Tupelo, Southaven, Grenada and Starkville, extending the original Lost Pizza concept for high-quality food and quirky ambiance. As example, the interior of the Cleveland location on U.S. Highway 61 features a VW Microbus — it was cemented into the location and the building was constructed around it. And the Starkville restaurant on Mississippi Highway 12 offers an old scoreboard taken from the gym of a closed Delta academy.
Lost Pizza is still in full-growth mode. A restaurant in Ridgeland, the first south of U.S. Highway 82, is under construction on U.S. Highway 51 with completion expected by the end of the year. A grand opening is also being planned for a new Lost Pizza in Memphis, the first outside of Mississippi.
Meanwhile, Roberts and Lott are eyeing more locations in the metro Jackson area as well as in Hattiesburg.
Those locations will offer the same quaint atmosphere (Roberts was in Nashville lately attending a large flea market in hopes of landing more campy fare for its new locations) and menu.
In addition to pizzas such as The Kujo, The Otis and The Popeye, Lost Pizza offers subs, pastas, salads and desserts.
Over its short history, Lost Pizza, which now has approximately 25 workers on the payroll, has won a bevy of awards. It has taken top honors from Mississippi Magazine, Cleveland Current, Bolivar Commercial, DeSoto Times Tribune, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal and Delta Magazine, among others.
“You have to keep and eye on the numbers, no doubt, but I think the most important measure of success is what others are saying about us,” Roberts said. “I don’t know how far we can go. We’re having a lot of fun. If it keeps going like it is…”
For more on Lost Pizza, visit www.lostpizza.com.