(Ambrosio’s note: Welcome to Franchise Chatter’s newest bonus series for Platinum subscribers, Why Invest. Inspired by our very popular Fro-Yo Files, this new series will go beyond frozen yogurt to provide exclusive coverage of the larger franchise universe — including everything from pizza chains to massage concepts — and impart useful information and advice straight from franchise insiders.)
If you were speaking in pizza parlance, you might say that CiCi’s Pizza is on a roll. In the midst of a 10-year growth strategy to build its brand with the goal of adding 500 new stores, 2012 was a watershed year for the company. It launched a new award-winning website, was named America’s favorite pizza chain in a survey by Market Force, rolled out a new restaurant prototype and updated existing stores, and added new leadership to its executive team, including Thomas McCord, who was named vice president of franchise development.
The theme of CiCi’s franchisee conference this year was “The Start of Something Big,” alluding to the company’s goal of nearly doubling its current 564 restaurants by the year 2020. It currently has outlets in 34 states across the country, but wants to extend its reach even farther by seeking qualified multi-unit and single-unit operators to help grow the brand in Southern California, the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and South Florida, as well as select cities in Texas and other regions across the nation.
“We have tremendous opportunity in key markets: Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, New York City, the (Washington) D.C./Baltimore metro,” McCord said in an interview with Franchise Chatter. “There are tremendous opportunities to bring on the right partners and also growth in nontraditional venues, as well as responding to interest from potential international partners. That’s the path we are investigating.”
Head of Franchising Once Bussed Tables
McCord, who joined CiCi’s Pizza last summer, got his start in the food service industry bussing tables in a restaurant at age 15. After matriculating at University of North Texas, he earned a degree in finance and started his career in the real estate department of Yum! Brands, working with franchisees for KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. From there, he joined TGI Friday’s in franchise development; and before joining CiCi’s, he worked for a year developing assisted living facilities.
He is just one of the recent new hires CiCi’s has made during the last few years. Mike Shumsky, formerly of La Madeleine restaurant group, Sonic restaurants, and Johnny Rockets, became CiCi’s CEO in September 2009. At about the same time that McCord joined the team, Geoff Goodman, a nearly five-year veteran at CiCi’s, stepped into the role of vice president of national brand excellence. Previously, he served as director of brand excellence, with responsibility for supporting franchisees with strategies that enable strong operations. Former CiCi’s franchisee Quinn Newhall took over Goodman’s position as director of brand excellence, marking his return to CiCi’s corporate operations and building upon his more than 20-year career in restaurant management.
The changes at the top have set the stage for a new era of growth at CiCi’s, which wants to build upon its brand as the nation’s premier custom pizza buffet, which serves 28 different, freshly made pizzas in rotation, as well as pastas, salads, soups, and oven-baked desserts.
The first CiCi’s Pizza opened in Plano, Texas, in 1985. Now based in Coppell, Texas, it is one of the fastest-growing pizza chains in the country, with limited competition in the pizza buffet category.