Photo: Sam (left) and Casey Askar
Askar Brands is a Michigan-based company that operates numerous pizza franchises across the U.S., including Papa Romano’s, Papa’s Pizza To-Go, Breadeaux Pizza, and Blackjack Pizza.
The company is led by brothers Casey Askar, president, and Sam Askar, CEO. The duo works to acquire restaurants, then boost profits and brand equity through strategic operational support. Casey and Sam Askar have been involved in the food industry since 1997 when Casey worked as a pizza company franchisee and Sam provided him with operational support.
With all of Askar Brands’ acquisitions, the company strives to maintain the integrity of each brand and preserve the founder’s original concept, while simultaneously offering operational support that will boost
profits and yield greater store-level results.
Franchise Chatter (FC): How did you and your brother Sam get involved in the pizza business?
Casey Askar (CA): I had a vast array of business and franchise experience from early on in my career. In 2006, I was given the opportunity to buy Detroit-based Papa Romano’s and I was instantly hooked on pizza concepts.
My brother Sam joined me in the business and from 2006 to 2010, Askar Brands acquired one new pizza
concept every year and started to grow the brands on a larger scale. We now have almost 200 combined
pizza units and we’re growing.
Pizza is consumed in the U.S. on such a large sale, and we know it’s not going away any time soon – there’s tremendous staying power. Being involved in the pizza industry as a franchisor is a great opportunity because there are simple operational processes that allow you to master the system.
We’ve learned how to execute well on the store-level, giving us an ability to gain market share in the
FC: Why would a regional pizza brand want to be acquired by Askar Brands?
CA: When you’re a regional pizza chain, there are certain limits to your growth because you don’t have the resources to execute. Askar Brands offers expertise in the pizza and franchise space, helping brands fuel greater store-level results. We understand the challenges and opportunities pizza chains face, which is why we like to duplicate the success of other brands we’ve supported.
One benefit specifically for franchisees – both new and existing – is that they can take advantage of greater purchasing power. There are also numerous benefits such as upgraded technology, increased marketing channels, and operational efficiencies.
FC: Tell us one success story about a brand you’ve acquired?
CA: Our biggest success story comes with Denver-based Blackjack Pizza, which we acquired in 2012. This was an attractive company to us because it was a successful, homegrown, regional brand. We saw the great work their company president Mike Gaston was doing and knew that with the help of our team, we could fuel extraordinary results.
We retained many of Blackjack’s original employees and have been able to apply our operational resources and expertise to turn Blackjack Pizza into one of the most popular pizza concepts in the
western U.S. states.
Our operational approach is built with the employee in mind, so one of the first changes we made at Blackjack was new and updated training manuals. Through better training processes, a greater service-focus, and the launch of premium products, sales were up nearly 20 percent in 2014.
FC: What does the future look like for Askar Brands?
CA: We plan to continue in our growth mode, acquisitions, and growing organically. Our infrastructure is poised for growth, so we will focus on acquiring brands with 50 to 250 units because we feel our expertise plays well in this space.
As our brand portfolio grows, we also want to build greater market share for our franchisees. We’ve increased our marketing efforts and product specs, which includes more ounces of cheese and toppings to set ourselves apart in the market.
Ultimately, this benefits the franchisees the most with better sales numbers, but it also makes the entire Askar system stronger.
FC: What advice do you have for young entrepreneurs like yourself?
CA: Time is valuable. Focus your energy where it counts.
Be ambitious; work hard, play hard.
Know how to close the deal.
It’s not just about putting in the effort, you have to get results.
Make it count and meet your objective – also know the objective of the other person. Create a win-win for the buyer and the seller by designing and understanding what makes sense for both parties.
FC: What are some challenges/benefits to being in business with family?
CA: When you’re in business with family, it can be challenging to not allow emotions to dictate the direction of business decisions. My advice is to be selfless when it comes to family in order to avoid creating a toxic situation. Have a good work ethic and allocate to each other’s strengths; you have to know your role because you can’t do your job if the other person is not.
For us, there have been greater benefits than hindrances to being in business with each other. The ability to think of others before ourselves – something we were taught at a young age — has helped us thrive as a family in business. Many of the values we learned as children are recognized in our business as whole, encouraging everyone to work together for the common good.
Other benefits include high-levels of trust, solidarity, and willingness to make sacrifices for the sake of the business.