Vikings tackle Matt Kalil recently had fellow members of the offensive line over to the pizza restaurant he owns in Mankato for a free dinner.
Yes, it's still in business.
The linemen ate plenty at Pieology Pizzeria, and Kalil joked they didn't even leave him a tip, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported. Nevertheless, the four-year veteran said the customer traffic the place has been getting during training camp has more than made up for the complimentary pies.
"We're doing really well; I can say that," Kalil said. "We've been having big lunches, and it's been big after practices."
Kalil often stops by to check out what's going on. During a recent lunch between a Vikings walkthrough and a practice, he signed autographs, posed for pictures and answered questions about pizza and football.
"I think that's really neat for a guy from our Minnesota team to walk into his own place and put his arms around people and pose," said Jesse Schreiber, 32, of Mankato.
Kalil owns five Pieology franchises -- three in Minnesota, one in California and one in Texas. The company, founded in 2011, has 72 locations in 11 states, with more on the way.
The other Minnesota locations are in St. Paul's Highland Park neighborhood and in Maple Grove, which was the first one Kalil opened last October. So this is the first Vikings training camp in which a Pieology is across the street from team practice at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
"It's been awesome," Kalil said. "It's really cool everybody checking it out and letting me know how it is."
Many regard Pieology as the Chipotle of pizza restaurants. It's a fast-food establishment in which patrons stand in line and choose the ingredients they want on a personal-sized pizza for a fixed price of $7.95. The pizza is thrown in the oven and delivered to the table in about five minutes.
Kalil grew up in the Los Angeles area loving pizza. He says, "Who doesn't love pizza?"
Still, Kalil said he wasn't going to invest in just any pizza business. When he was a Vikings rookie in 2012 and armed with a new four-year, $19.7 million contract, he was looking into ways to invest his money and heard about the Pieology concept.
"Chipotle is all corporate, and they don't franchise out," Kalil said. "But if they did, you get in a company like that, you can't really grow because there are so many. (Pieology is a) young company out in California, and we kill it out there because people already know about it. There are lines out the door.
"I'm not going to spend my money on a franchise if I don't like something, but after seeing and tasting the product myself, I thought it was a great concept. ... A lot of professional athletes are for the most part losing a lot of their money, but I wanted to start out with something like this. I'm sure I'll invest in other things in the future, but my goal is to secure (my future) and keep the checks coming in."
Kalil said he must place a deposit of about $500,000 for each Pieology. He is planning soon to open additional franchises in California and Texas.
On a recent night during training camp, Brandon Fusco, Phil Loadholt, John Sullivan, Joe Berger and Mike Harris were among the Vikings offensive linemen who checked out Pieology. For Fusco, it was his first visit.
"I was actually really impressed," Fusco said. "It was some good pizza. It was nice to change it up after eating all this dining hall food."
Harris commended Kalil, 26, for thinking so early in his NFL career about his long-term future.
"He's smart. I just tip my hat to him," Harris said. "He started off young thinking about life after football. That just inspires me. I think Matt is going to do very well for himself."
There was plenty of commotion when the offensive linemen visited. Fans were thrilled, and Kalil said their presence did nothing but help future business.
Kalil was asked if Pieology's doors are open to Packers fans.
"Maybe," Kalil said with a laugh before adding, "They're welcome for sure."
Editor's note: This is an AP Member Exchange shared by Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.