How was your franchise/opportunity originally conceived and started?
Pat Giammarco, who spent his early childhood in Italy, wanted to see pizza made the authentic and traditional Italian way, meaning fresh dough, Italian sauce, generous amounts of real cheese, fresh vegetables and meat. He and a partner opened their own pizza restaurant in Toledo, Ohio, in 1978. Thirty-seven years and hundreds of stores later, Marco's still makes authentic Italian pizzas with the same attention to guest care and product quality.
What was your original vision for your company? How has that changed over time?
When I first came on board, they had 112 Marco's stores; I couldn't believe they didn't have a thousand stores open in United States. Every store I visited produced a high-quality pizza consistently, and I felt consistency was key. I knew with the right vision and leadership, we would break the 500-restaurant plateau in the United States very quickly. We should be there within the next 24 months.
What do you believe is the single most important factor when choosing a franchise?
Consistency. There are a lot of great ideas out there, but if you don't know how to execute the concept on a consistent basis, you're going to fail. You've got to have consistency. You've got to make it easy on your franchisees. That was one of the things that drew me to Marco's at every store I visited, the pizza looked the same and tasted the same. They had the foundation already built to become a powerhouse national franchise.
Why should someone choose your franchise over other similar franchises?
We serve the highest quality pizza you can find at a franchise. Just look at our ingredients while other top pizza chains use frozen dough, we make our dough fresh in-store every day. We use the best meats possible; fresh, real cheeses; a sauce made from a hybrid tomato developed especially for Marco's; and we dice all our vegetables in the stores. We don't cut corners, and you can literally taste the difference in the quality. Our demand for quality is a unifying force among our franchisees. They are proud of the products they serve. They believe every slice matters.
What makes your industry attractive?
It's one of the most popular foods in America; according to a Gallup poll, 91% of people eat pizza at least once a month. Children prefer pizza over hamburgers and chicken. It's a predictable business, and if you're in a good trade area and you open a store with good service and a good product, you're going to succeed. Also, it's not a terribly expensive business to get into for food service. You don't need a full kitchen, just an oven and a prep station. And your labor costs are lower because you don't have to have a lot of specialized employees, so it doesn't take a huge team.
What types of qualities do you look for in potential franchisees?
We want someone who's passionate about food quality, dedicated and a natural leader. It's also essential that they understand the importance of following our systems. Having a good head for business helps, but restaurant experience isn't necessary. We want someone who is friendly and outgoing and willing to get involved in their community.
What do your franchise fees and royalties cover?
We have 187 action steps between signing the franchise agreement and opening the doors to store, and we have a team of experienced, dedicated staff to walk our franchisees through every step. We make every decision very carefully and guide them through the process, from choosing the kind of location that will draw traffic from our desired demographic to finding and purchasing the kind of equipment needed to produce pizza the Marco's way. We also have an Area Rep model of business, so wherever your Marco's franchises are located, you will have a leader in your area you can reach out to for advice, support and guidance any time you need them.
How do territories work for your franchisees?
Every franchisee receives a protected territory around their store. We also offer multi-unit franchisees protected trade areas to develop. For details about market availability, a franchise candidate should reach out to us. Our chain is growing quickly, so they should reach out soon.
Why has your franchise model been successful?
Most pizza chains put out a lower quality product at a value price point, similar to what McDonald's and Burger King do. Marco's is more like 5 Guys Burger and Fries. Our customers will pay a little more for better quality.
Where do you see your franchise in 5 years and 10 years?
We will move from being a high-growth franchisor to a household name in the United States. We will also be developed in other countries.
What is your favorite advice for new franchisees to help them succeed?
You will work hard, but our team will work hard for you if you let them.
What would you tell potential franchisees that may be nervous about the financial burdens of starting a franchise?
It's true there are risks, but the potential for reward is great. And if you take calculated risks, you stand to succeed. Consider this: It costs millions of dollars to open a casual dining establishment, but it only costs $300,000 to open a Marco's. Every potential franchisee should carefully review Item 19 in our Franchise Disclosure Document, which offers up data on the actual earnings of existing franchisees.
Can you explain your financial assistance (if applicable)?
First of all, Marco's is an approved franchise on the Small Business Administration National Registry, and the SBA is the primary way franchisees finance their business. We also have expert staff who will help guide franchise candidates to understand all of their financial options, from 401 K rollovers to our internal leasing and capital resources that are available to certain types of candidates to refinancing existing debt.
On average, how long does it take to start a new franchise from the franchisees point of view?
From the time someone signs a franchise agreement until the day they open their franchise can be six months to one year. The wild card is availability of real estate. You don't want to rush or shortcut the real estate process.
What was your background and experience before founding this franchise?
I've worked with and owned various food franchises for more than 35 years and helped them to expand nationwide, taking them from local restaurant concepts to chains with hundreds of restaurants across the country. Some of the brands you might know include Fuddruckers and ChiChi's.
Do you have any franchisee testimonials or success stories that you would like to share?
"We had literally quit eating pizza for years. I bet we had not eaten a pizza in 10 years. When we retired from the military, our friend opened a Marco's in Georgia. We tried it and were blown away. We were just literally wowed by the pizza. It was so good, we ordered it every week. When we started looking at business opportunities, Marco's popped immediately to mind. Obviously we have a great brand."
Laurel Wilkerson, Multi-Unit Franchisee of the Year 2012, Oklahoma