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Today’s post is the first of two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 to be posted tomorrow.)
After more than 30 years as a brand known primarily in the tri-state region of Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, Marco’s Pizza has begun to think and operate outside the box in its quest to become a more renowned American brand. With an infusion of executive talent that includes the eminently qualified Jack Butorac as president and CEO of Marco’s Franchising LLC, Marco’s hopes to create a national footprint as a purveyor of pizza that is authentically Italian.
“I kind of failed retirement,” Butorac, 64, said in an interview with Franchise Chatter, explaining that he thought he left the food industry — as well as the daily grind of going to work — in 2000, after a long and illustrious career. But food service seems to be in his blood. Either that, or Spam, Butorac jokes, referring to the much-maligned but enduring food product that has been around since 1937. Butorac began his career in the Minnesota plant of Hormel Foods Corp., maker of Spam.
From those humble beginnings, and after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business from Minnesota State University Mankato, he worked his magic for more than 35 years, turning high-quality local restaurant concepts into thriving national chains, building brands such as Zantigo (later folded into Taco Bell), Chi-Chi’s Mexican Restaurant, Fuddruckers, and Tumbleweed, a small but successful chain of Southwest-style restaurants.
When Butorac retired in 2000, the respite lasted only two years before a friend came to him with a project. He was asked to analyze three food service concepts, including Marco’s, and offer his input on how to grow the business.
Discovering the Marco’s Secret
By the following year, he was on board as a consultant for Marco’s, having regular conversations with Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco, who founded the chain in 1978 in Toledo, Ohio. He brought in a former colleague, marketing guru Syl Sosnowski, who had previously helped raise the profile of KFC and Papa John’s as an executive for those companies.
There were brainstorming sessions about how to differentiate Marco’s from seemingly countless competitors in the market. Then one day, Sosnowski called Butorac and said, “I’ve got it.”
From sessions with Giammarco, they had learned that Marco’s pizza is made very specifically using Old World methods that originated in Italy and traveled with the Giammarcos when the family immigrated to America. The founder himself was just 9 years old when he came to the United States; he worked during his childhood at his family’s pizzeria.
Among the secrets Butorac and Sosnowski discovered about Marco’s is that the dough is made daily in each store; the tomato sauce is as fresh as it can be, created from a recipe developed by Giammarco and his father; and the cheese is actually a blend of three different cheeses, never frozen like at some other pizza chains. Explorer Marco Polo, who is credited (erroneously) with bringing pizza to Italy from China centuries ago, would be proud.