DJ Steve Aoki is expanding his enterprise beyond the turntable and into the restaurant industry. Aoki’s recent addition to his pizza restaurant chain, Pizzaoki, opened in January in Oakland and is available only through food delivery services such as Grubhub and DoorDash.
Aoki, the fourth-highest-paid DJ in the world, has lent his name to pies dubbed the “Steveroni” and the “Neon Future” — a white sauce and mozzarella pizza named after one of his albums. The new establishment, while unavailable to customers who hope to physically patronize, seeks to capitalize on the increasing popularity of on-demand food delivery services, in addition to Aoki’s massive following.
Pronounced “Pete’s-Aoki,” the chain is expanding rapidly after opening for business less than one year ago. Since starting with its first location in Los Angeles last July, Pizzaoki has expanded to five more locations in L.A., one in San Diego and its latest Oakland location. According to Aoki’s Facebook page, Long Beach, Las Vegas and Chicago will also have Pizzaokis by next month.
Payton McSweeney, a campus sophomore and dancer with student-run urban dance group AFX, is a self-described “casual fan” of Aoki’s. McSweeney also takes advantage of food delivery services on a regular basis. Many UC Berkeley students are familiar with delivery services such as Uber Eats, which may draw students to try the delivery-only business, according to McSweeney.
“I feel like people might buy pizzas there for the novelty — like maybe once just to say that they did it because it’s kind of expensive,” McSweeney said. “Maybe if people are fans of his music, they might buy.”
Pizzas range in price from $11.99 to $22.29, delivery fees not included, with a 30- to 45-minute wait time usually estimated by delivery services.
Even if sales among the EDM-inclined are less than expected, Pizzaoki’s kitchen-sharing business model provides lower overhead expenses and allows for its limited hours — 4 to 11 p.m. According to Alicia Brown, an employee at Aoki’s Oakland establishment, who simply answered the phone with “pizza,” about seven restaurants currently share the kitchen. The exterior of 536 Lake Park Ave. advertises the location as Lorenzo’s of New York.
Campus freshman Eryn Yuen explained that the fierce competition from closer pizza restaurants in Berkeley might pose a hurdle for Pizzaoki. Yuen added that the pizza would have to rely on more than Aoki’s name in order for her to become a fan.
“Unless he has some specialty pizza, I don’t think he’ll have that much traction just because it’s so accessible here,” Yuen said. “I mean, I respect his hustle.”