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Ric OchoaRic Ochoa is the Owner of SoCal Pizza in Norwalk, California. With 17 years of experience in sales operations, Ric’s love for cooking led him to open SoCal Pizza in 2010, where he introduced a pasta bar and proudly sources fresh ingredients from local small businesses. Actively engaged in the community, his commitment to excellence earned SoCal Pizza the 2018 Small Business of the Year Award, a testament to Ric’s dedication and culinary expertise.


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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Ric Ochoa details what customers can expect when visiting SoCal Pizza
  • How Ric gained experience in the restaurant industry before starting his own business
  • The process of developing the SoCal Pizza menu
  • Where Ric learned the secrets of making great-tasting pizza
  • What separates SoCal Pizza from the corporate-owned competition?
  • Ric recalls what the early days were like at SoCal Pizza after opening in 2010

In this episode…

As every independent restaurant owner knows, resilience and adaptation are regular requirements in a fiercely competitive industry, including the ability to navigate the twists and turns of market shifts and coming up with the strategic maneuvers essential for survival and success in a constantly changing landscape.

Ric Ochoa’s journey in opening SoCal Pizza stemmed from a burning desire to break free from corporate America. The transition to running a mom-and-pop shop brought unexpected challenges, as his responsibilities expanded to cover everything from rent to taxes and price adjustments. After being in business for a decade, the impact of COVID prompted a significant shift in the SoCal Pizza business model, pushing Ric to diversify beyond the traditional dine-in approach and embrace delivery services, outdoor seating, and curbside pickup. Faced with the ever-changing landscape of the food industry, Ric is strategically evolving SoCal Pizza, navigating the dynamic industry trends centered around personality and advertisements.

On this episode of the Top Business Leaders Show, Ric Ochoa, the Founder of SoCal Pizza, joins Rise25’s Chad Franzen to talk about his journey from corporate America to running his own independent pizza restaurant for more than a decade. He discusses the way his restaurant has had to evolve as a result of market conditions, and the ways in which it will continue to evolve.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the Top Business Leaders Show powered by Rise25 media. We feature top founders, executives and business leaders from all over the world.

Chad Franzen 0:20

Hi Chad Franzen here co host for the show where we feature top restaurateurs, investors and business leaders. This is part of our SpotOn series. SpotOn has the best in class payment platform for retail and they have a flagship solution called spot on restaurant, where they combine marketing software and payments all in one. They’ve sorted everyone from larger chains like Dairy Queen and Subway to small mom and pop restaurants. To learn more, go to This episode is brought to you by Rise25. We help b2b businesses to get ROI clients referrals and strategic partnerships through done for you podcasts. If you have a b2b business and want to build great relationships with clients, referral partners and thought leaders in your space. There’s no better way to do it than through podcasts and content marketing. To learn more, go to or email us at support at Ric Ochoa is owner of SoCal Pizza in Norwalk, California. With tremendous experience and passion for cooking. He opened the restaurant in 2010. SoCal Pizza offers a pasta bar and sources its fresh ingredients from local produce small businesses. Ric, thanks so much for joining me today. How are you?

Ric Ochoa 1:24

Good morning. Thank you. Thank you, Chad, for give me an opportunity to speak with you.

Chad Franzen 1:12

Great to have you. Hey, so to start off here, just tell me a little bit about SoCal Pizza. Maybe for somebody like me, a customer who has never visited what I might expect when going there.

Ric Ochoa 1:39

Alright, so home based traditional pizza, I, your it’s just your local mom and pop. Really, it’s the flavor of love and passion that we make fresh every day. We have pizzas, we have salads, we have pastas, like you said, quite a variety, quite a bit of variety. And I just — pizza and that’s it.

Chad Franzen 2:02

As I mentioned, when I introduced you, you had some you founded the restaurant over 10 years ago, but you had some restaurant experience before that. Can you tell me how you kind of like broke into the restaurant industry?

Ric Ochoa 2:16

Oh, that’s a great, that’s a great question. I’ve been in the restaurant industry for over 30 years. It’s Ben, I broke into it back in the day in the early in the late 80s. company called Flakey Jake’s. Then I went into I transform myself into some borrows, worked my way up to the management to upper management went into another company called Villa Pizza. And then that brought me to Pizza Hut and brought me back to my own dream of starting my own business.

Chad Franzen 2:52

Very nice. So Flakey Jake’s I’m guessing was a pizza place?

Ric Ochoa 2:55

No actually was a hamburger, hamburger organization based out of Seattle, Washington. They brought it into Southern California for a number of years. About 10-15 years and they went under.

Chad Franzen 3:09

So did you for, as far as SoCal Pizza goes, did you come up with the menu and kind of the concept and everything like that?

Ric Ochoa 3:15

Yeah, it was something that throughout my years of experience working in so many different ventures of pizza company that I worked for, I kind of started putting my head together some of the recipes, some of the things I wanted to do if I were able to branch out on my own. So I started slowly developing the menu.

Chad Franzen 3:36

What were some of those things kind of as you, you know, kind of worked for you. You mentioned a number of places, Pizza Huts, Borough of some places that I’ve heard of, what were some things that you know, you thought okay, I am going to remember this and use this when I go out on my own.

Ric Ochoa 3:51

Some of the recipes that they use for dough, some of the Trump bullies, some unique stuff that I was privileged to be taught, especially when they when Skubana took me back east to learn their facilities and the recipes and it was just an eye opener that it just not, we just don’t sell a round pizza. There’s more to it than just that. So it wasn’t great lasagna, everything it was just a magical experience to go back. Learn from the ground up, I guess. Best way to phrase it

Chad Franzen 4:20

here, I bet. What do you think? You know, we’ve already mentioned numerous pizza places. What do you think kind of separates SoCal Pizza from you know the multitude of other pizza options that are out there?

Ric Ochoa 4:32

I you know, something that’s our fresh ingredients. I mean, everything is made fresh every single day. There’s nothing canned or prepackaged or done anything else. We grate our cheese, we make our pizza sauce, we cook everything fresh. I mean, we try to do the best we can to keep it fresh as much as possible in this weird times that we live in. But we try to do our best to keep it fresh.

Chad Franzen 4:57

How have you found it to be you know, there’s so many kind of corporate pizza places you’ve characterized SoCal as a mom and pop shop. How is competing with those maybe other much larger well funded entities?

Ric Ochoa 5:10

Challenging, challenging because sometimes you get out of sight out of mind because all these name brands, like you said, have advertisement dollars out there all over those pots. So they kind of grab your attention. So we have to become the very unique and very specific to what we do to keep it consistent for when the customer comes every single day that will receive it every single day the same recipe and say flavor that they come for.

Chad Franzen 5:37

What do you do, if anything, to let people know you’re out there?

Ric Ochoa 5:41

I tried to do as much as possible as social media. I tried to do mail outs, advertisement, sports organizations, through schools, through businesses, pass out flyers, just everything in anything that you can get your hands on.

Chad Franzen 5:56

Very nice. So take me back to 2010. Tell me about the process of you know, you break out of kind of working for other maybe larger pizza organizations and you start your own tell me about the process of opening SoCal Pizza.

Ric Ochoa 6:11

Ah, that was a it was something that was burning inside me that I was tired of working for corporate America. I felt I had the experience and the knowledge. And then just wanted to take that risk. I opened up in La Mirada first for two years there, then I relocated to Norwalk in La Mirada, it was already pre-existing. So it was a little bit of an easier transition. transformation to go into the business, and then I just took in my recipes, and we went from there.

Chad Franzen 6:49

When you first moved to your location, where you are now what were the what were the early days?

Ric Ochoa 6:56

Challenging. After you feel that you build somewhat of a base somewhere and you relocate even if it’s 10 minutes down the road, it’s very challenging to change the narrative to say, okay, instead of making a left, you’re gonna make a right to so cause it was a little challenging. It was it was kind of a learning experience that you have to reinvent yourself no matter what,

Chad Franzen 7:18

what, you know, running your own business, having nobody to report to except for yourself and your customers, I guess, is different than you know, reporting to a boss even if you hardly ever see the boss, what have you, what have you found to be maybe some of the primary challenges with running your own mom and pop shop compared to working for somebody else?

Ric Ochoa 7:38

You don’t see the unknown, the back office or main office that as when you work for corporate America, you kind of you know, your p&l is you know what you have to do you know this and that we’re, when you become independent. Now you’re in charge of the whole ball of wax, you got to pay the rent, you got to pay state tax, you got to pay all these taxes, keep an eye on flexible infliction of prices, adjusting your prices, it was a little bit more than I expected.

Chad Franzen 8:11

How did COVID change what you guys do or affect what you guys do if it did at all?

Ric Ochoa 8:19

A lot of fact, that was big time. Um, I’m mostly considered, even though I’m a pizza restaurant. I’m more of a dine-in establishment more, you have 14 TVs. So we did a lot of in stores things there was a lot of promotional indoors. So we really didn’t do that much of a delivery now in COVID it that that really woke me up to say, Okay, I got to do more than just the normal basis. And when we tried to launch delivery, we try to do the best we can to get out to customers. We did outdoor seating. We tried it we did also curbside pickup. So it’s slowly changed our my thought process of how to run a restaurant.

Chad Franzen 9:04

Did you? Did you have employees who were already on staff change their roles to delivery or did you just partner up with some delivery services?

Ric Ochoa 9:14

I did both I first started off independently with myself and then that became a little challenging. And then I branched out to the delivery services DoorDash, Uber, GrubHub.

Chad Franzen 9:26

And is that still part of your business now?

Ric Ochoa 9:29

Yes, they still are.

Chad Franzen 9:31

What are some of your goals moving forward now with SoCal Pizza? Ah, yeah,

Ric Ochoa 9:37

That’s a good question. I’m just trying to evolve as prize you know, very, very wisely shad. The pizza or the food industry is evolving. It’s changing. There’s not a solid ground so I’m trying to find my new footing in this new age of the food industry. It’s mostly a personality and, and the advertisement more than anything.

Chad Franzen 10:10

I have one more question for you. But first, tell me how people can find out more about you guys.

Ric Ochoa 10:16

I’ll take a look at soap on our website SoCal Pizza for, they’ll see our menu they can order online, get all our prices, get all the information of private parties, fundraisers, everything we do that we carry trying to help the community with.

Chad Franzen 10:32

Last question, when you go to SoCal Pizza as a customer, if you can think of the last time you did that, what would be your go-to item of choice, you’re kind of your go to meal of choice.

Ric Ochoa 10:43

Oh, it makes it hard. I’ll have to put a buffet in front of me on that one. What’s that? I have to put a buffet in front of me on that one and all the food I want to order.

Chad Franzen 10:55

But is very nice.

Ric Ochoa 10:58

I love our Stromboli. Very few pizza shops do that. We do that here. I love our wings. I think our wings are second to none. I’m really proud of that. And our salads, can we that’s Believe it or not the funny thing to say. I mean, we do get our compliments on pizza but are one of the second there’s I guess the second most compliments we get is on our salads because it’s so fresh. Because we cut it fresh every day. So that’s probably my weight salad and a Stromboli. Why

Chad Franzen 11:28

don’t you feel like it’s important to get your fresh ingredients like your produce, things like that. From locally sourced businesses to try to help everybody

Ric Ochoa 11:38

We’re all in the same boat. We help our local providers just they’re just like their mom and pops and we help to establish ourselves and keep ourselves in business and try to keep within ourselves. Keep the dollar I guess the best way to keep the dollar rotating within the small businesses.

Chad Franzen 11:49

Yeah, absolutely. Sounds good. Hey, Ric, thanks so much for joining me. It’s been great to talk to you. Congratulations on SoCal Pizza and best wishes moving forward.

Ric Ochoa 11:56

Thank you was a pleasure and hi everybody. See you soon.

Chad Franzen 12:10

So long everybody.

Outro 12:12

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