Pie In The Sky

In Fast Food, Foodtown Supermarkets, Georgie Pie, McDonalds, Progressive Enterprises, Tom Ah Chee on February 3, 2011 at 10.46

Georgie Pie was a fast food chain owned by supermarket operator Progressive Enterprises, that hoped to be “New Zealand’s own home-grown alternative to the global fast-food giants”. It didn’t seem quite like McDonalds, and it definitely wasn’t your local bakery. Like the ad, the brand always seemed a bit “mock”. The commercial kind of gives me the creeps, which isn’t helped by the mournful reminisce of the faux Carpenters track, which always undoubtedly makes the mind’s next pitstop depression, pill-popping and Anorexia…not conducive to tasty pie promotion in my mind.

The first restaurant was opened in Kelston, Auckland in 1977 (this was the one local to where I lived as a child). In its short lifetime of just over twenty years, Georgie Pie achieved a number of firsts in New Zealand – first “Drive Thru”, first Breakfast, first 24 hour opening – and undoubtedly the first local brand to seriously challenge international fast food chains.
The overhead costs could only be offset by increasing production via the opening of more outlets and by increasing supply in various ways. The decision by a short term CEO not to continue with expansion spelled demise of the brand. This decision was based on his view that pies were unhealthy and demand would diminish. The brand was sold off to McDonalds, and by 1998 the last store had closed. RIP, Georgie Pie.

A Facebook campaign calling for the return of Georgie Pie gained 35,000 members. On September 28, 2008, the proponents hired a Christchurch bakery and temporarily converted it into a GP restaurant selling original recipe pies. It was extremely popular and sold out in an hour. This was done for a documentary that the students are making titled “Bring Back The George”. Predictably, McDonald’s threw around a few lawsuit threats over copyright infringement during the revival of interest and then announced they were looking into relaunching the brand. In a typical case of “If I can’t have it then no-one will”, this hasn’t happened of course – and the brand languishes, unjustly relegated to history although the market clamours.

  1. Such great memories of GP in Greenlane. Late night feed on the way home from Alfies, DTM, The Box. Loved the mince n cheese, vanilla shakes and apple pie and ice cream which was a challenge to devour with the pathetic plastic spoons…

    • I really can’t remember that much about Georgie Pie to be honest…that usually means I was pretty unimpressed. I think they did a lot of licensed plastic toy give-aways much like McDonalds did, to entice kids. One thing I would like to explore a bit more is Tom Ah Chee, the creator of Georgie Pie who was the same person who opened New Zealand’s first supermarket (Foodtown Otahuhu, 1958). he must have been a pretty interesting man.

  2. Head to the Auckland Central Library’s research centre, and look up the Auckland Star, 3 July 1976 p. 15. A feature article was published on Tom Ah Chee, his biographical details, and the Foodtown Supermarkets story. More in the NZ Card Index.

    I well remember Georgie Pie (a relative worked at Foodtown supermarkets at the time). I used to like their pies. Jesters has made an attempt at something similar, but I’ve seen a couple of those outlets close so — who knows?

    • Thanks for the tip, Lisa. I’m already formulating the idea to do a post about him and his entrepreneurial vision, with an image of a rare grape flavour Foodtown soda can that I’ve never seen another of yet. The basis of Georgie Pie’s economy was the Foodtown pies and related mass marketed products that were produced out of the same factory. I like those sort of no-name products that have pretend branding, kind of like Aldi, or those little supermarket food toys we had as kids with all the miniature boxes and cans in a tiny trolley. It was a long-time fantasy of mine to design a faux brand and I actually got to do it for Aldi homewares about five years ago. I was in heaven for a little while…

  3. Hello, this is all very interesting.
    I am specifically looking for Jam adverts for St Georges Jam from around 1957. Wondering whether you have seen anything around or can advise how best to track it down. Cheers

  4. Hi Steve, not from the 1950s. I’ve never seen any from that era yet. I would say your best bet was online newspapers, sadly they only go up to 1945. Most of the ads I’ve seen are from the 1920s. Your best bet would probably be cookbooks of that time. Good luck!

  5. Of course since this time, McDonalds did revive the brand in a minimal way – and one or two types of Georgie Pie are available at their outlets. I was informed last week that they’ve also been spotted in Australia, perhaps Queensland.

  6. First time I’ve read this explanation for GP’s demise.
    I don’t believe any of the explanations I’ve read….I think Mc’Ds made the owners an offer that was too tasty. Worked there as a store manager when they were undergoing their massive expansion.Nobody would spend that much without knowing they ‘d get it back,surely? (Mind you, Fletchers hired grads to ruin parts of that business!) Lots of GP people lost jobs and career paths…unions wouldn’t have allowed a sale without payouts to staff. How much nmoney and where did if go? Call me cynical

  7. Well it does say the brand was sold off to McDonalds, so yes of course they made a ‘tasty’ enough offer. McDonalds wanted the locations, that’s what they were primarily interested in, not the brand. There is no conspiracy theory or misinformation. Pretty sure the information is legitimate and available online although given this was researched and written nearly a decade ago so I’m unable to quote the source. That doesn’t mean clueless people in management didn’t make dumb decisions propelled by their narcissistic belief in their own unfounded philosophies that caused problems. We’ve all seen that with our own eyes.

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