In this Salute to American Success, we’re taking a look at Marco’s Pizza, a pizza restaurant franchise headquartered in Toledo, Ohio. The company focuses on using fresh ingredients to create authentic Italian pizza. Marco’s Pizza was founded in 1978 by Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco.
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When he was nine-years-old, Giammarco emigrated from Italy to the United States and grew up working at his family’s pizzeria. Eventually, he began his quest to open his own pizza business, learning everything he could about the art of pizza making.
“[Giammarco] learned everything about the crust and wanted to make sure the sauce was perfect,” said Marco’s Pizza President and Chief Operating Officer Bryon Stephens.
A year after opening the first store, Stephens began franchising the business. During the Great Recession, Stephens said the company was still able to grow, even though it wasn’t easy at first.
“We tried to ramp up growth during the recession,” said Stephens. “Money became tight, same-store sales dissipated in some scenarios. We had to make sure we were worthy of banks and investors’ capital infusion.”
Stephens said pizza proved to be recession proof.
“Consumers cut back on fine dining… you can feed more people for fewer dollars on pizza… that was really good for us,” he said.
In 2014, Marco’s opened 142 stores. Today, it has 625 stores, 40 being company-managed, in 38 states and has locations in the Bahamas, according to Stephens. He added that the company plans to open between 150-175 national locations this year, and expects system-wide revenue to reach about $420 million.
Also, the company has plans to open stores in India and Puerto Rico. In order to cater to customers in different markets, Stephens said menu alterations may take place.
“In order to provide a flavor profile of people in different areas, we may make adaptations to toppings in some places,” he said, adding “the core will still remain the same.”
In addition to pizza, the business also features salads and sub sandwiches on its menu, which combined, add up to 20% of the menu mix, according to Stephens.
ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS
Along with customers, Stephens said the culture of a business is critical to its success.
“There needs to be a focus on culture… it exists whether you want it to or not,” said Stephens. “You need to create a good culture. If not, you get self-defeating cultures of managers and staff,” he said.
Stephens added, “You need to align yourself with the best people at every level of the organization… know where you want to go and communicate what you want to achieve.”