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Franchise Mentor: Marco’s Pizza Franchisee Kevin Wilkerson is Among a Growing Number of Area Developers In Charge of an Entire Territory

by Brian Bixler on January 15, 2013

in Franchise Mentor, Pizza Franchises

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Because Marco’s Pizza is assuming additional risk through its financing programs and offering potential franchisees a portal to ideal locations, it expects a lot from those looking to sign on the dotted line.

“You have to be picky about who you let through the door to represent your brand,” said Jack Butorac, president and CEO of Marco’s Franchising. “Just because you have money doesn’t mean you’re going to become a franchisee. You have to be the right person that has the blend of being an operator and a salesman.”

While single-store hopefuls are encouraged to investigate the Marco’s model, the company president is so protective of the brand, he is focusing on franchisees who want to purchase a territory and recruit others in their area. There are currently 55 such representatives in the Marco’s system and Butorac jokingly refers to them as “Gestapo agents” because they not only operate their own units, they sell stores and visit other outlets to monitor operations to “keep the brand operating the way it’s supposed to be operated.”

Former Army Colonel Takes Charge in Oklahoma

Marco's Pizza Franchisees Kevin and Laurel Wilkerson

Kevin and Laurel Wilkerson, Franchisees of Marco’s Pizza

Kevin Wilkerson is one such operative. He and his wife Laurel own five restaurants in Oklahoma with a sixth set to open soon. He also owns the territory with plans to develop a total of 40 locations in Oklahoma by recruiting qualified franchise owners, particularly in  the Oklahoma City and Tulsa metro areas.

Being in charge is nothing new for either half of the husband-wife team. Until 2005, Kevin Wilkerson was a colonel in the U.S. Army. The infantry officer has done tours of duty in Bosnia and Afghanistan, commanding thousands of soldiers. Laurel Wilkerson is a veteran herself with a 20-year career as an Army lawyer and serving in the JAG Corps.

A few years ago, they began exploring new careers and Wilkerson was set on starting his own business. A friend had already become a Marco’s Pizza franchisee and suggested that it was worth a look.

“At the time, I had never worked in the food industry in my life, had never worked in a restaurant. I was very white collar. I thought he was nuts,” Wilkerson said.

“I didn’t actually like franchises. What changed there was I got to looking at the (Marco’s) model and got to thinking about it. I had a very narrow thought of what I wanted to get into; and food was nowhere on my radar. ”

What he liked about the Marco’s franchise concept is that it allowed him to explore all aspects of running a business: operational, strategic, personnel, accounting, marketing, training, and logistics. The University of Oklahoma graduate realized that Marco’s would utilize a wide range of leadership and business skills that he developed both in the military and as an owner of a mergers and acquisitions firm.

Before long, he was sold on Marco’s product and the corporate culture.

Marketing Part of Franchise Package

The total investment necessary to begin operation of a Marco’s Pizza store is $199,552 to $390,219, including a $25,000 initial franchise fee, according to the company’s Financial Disclosure Document.

What Wilkerson likes especially is that the upfront costs also include a $30,000 fee for a six-month brand-launch program. The money goes to the Marco’s Advertising Fund ($15,000 is paid before the franchisee opens a store and the balance is paid in $580 installments over the first 26 weeks of operation).

“The marketing department assists you in developing an entire six-month plan, so that you can focus on other aspects of the business without worrying about marketing for that initial time,” Wilkerson said.

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