Marco’s Pizza, one of America’s fastest-growing pizza brands, recently celebrated its 40th anniversary in its hometown of Toledo, OH, this July. In this Q&A, Marco’s Pizza founder Pasquale “Pat” Giammarco; CEO Jack Butorac; and president and chief operating officer Tony Libardi, reflected on the brand’s milestones as well as what customers and franchisees can look forward to in the future.
Franchise Chatter (FC): The brand is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Can you reflect on some of the highlights over the years?
Jack Butorac (JB): The rapid growth Marco’s Pizza has experienced over the last decade has been incredible to watch. From 126 locations in 2004 to 500 locations in 2014 and now we have our eyes set on 1,000 locations to be open and operating by early 2019 in three countries.
Most recently, we celebrated the opening of our 900th Marco’s Pizza location in Puerto Rico – this is a huge milestone for the brand. While planning for the store opening, Puerto Rico was struck by Hurricane Maria which devastated the island. Homes were destroyed, communities flooded, and approximately 3.7 million residents were without power.
Through determination and collaboration, Marco’s Pizza and the Puerto Rico team were able to reopen all six locations that closed due to the hurricane and continue the development of others – including the 900th store, which opened April 6. Franchisees of the 900th store, Edgardo Beniquez Santiago and Luisaliz Rivera, pushed back their opening to create safe havens for the community, offering food, shelter, and phones to contact loved ones, and even a place for families.
Marco’s Pizza continuously strives to be a part of our local communities and give back to the people who have made our growth possible.
FC: How has the Marco’s Pizza brand evolved over the last 40 years – from the founding to where it is today?
Pat Giammarco: After my family immigrated to the United States from Sulmona, Italy, I grew up making pizzas with my father. Fast forward to several years later when I was driving through Toledo and thought to bring an authentic pizzeria to northwest Ohio. Marco’s Pizza was born in July 1978.
The area needed a real, high-quality pizza made from fresh ingredients. Once we opened, people were enthusiastic about the quality of our pizza. They traveled from near and far for Marco’s Pizza, so we started to open more locations and then the brand just took off.
When we partnered with now franchise-owner Jack Butorac in January 2004, the brand experienced rapid expansion. There are now over 900 locations open across 35 states and three countries and each one offers guests a high-quality pizza with the freshest ingredients.
FC: Marco’s Pizza just opened its 900th store. What’s your strategy to reach 1,000?
Tony Libardi (TL): As Marco’s Pizza continues its strategic journey to 1,000 units and beyond, the brand’s energies will focus on growing its people and building future leaders at the corporate and store level.
Key initiatives driving this new era of growth are the evolution of our restaurant designs and a celebration of Marco’s Pizza’s Italian heritage with the launch of our new “Hello Primo” brand promise.
Over the years, Marco’s has grown into the seventh-largest pizza chain in the country. Marco’s ranked fifth on Forbes magazine’s list of the “Best Franchises to Buy” (2018 Study/Medium Investment), as well as ranked No. 2 on Entrepreneur’s 2018 Top 200 Food and Restaurant Franchises in the pizza segment – we are an unstoppable force with no signs of slowing down.
FC: What inspired the “Hello Primo” campaign and what can customers and franchisees expect from it?
JB: With our strong Italian heritage, it’s important to keep the brand rooted in its history so guests can discover “The Italian Way” that shaped the brand into what it is today. The rollout of “Hello Primo” will reach all customer touch points from the new marcos.com to in-store design and merchandising.
“Hello Primo” was derived from our Italian authenticity, commitment to quality ingredients, and focus on product made fresh every day. We obsess over the details, take pride in what we make, and appreciate the best things in life.
FC: What is Marco’s Pizza’s secret sauce to success?
TL: Our leadership team has built a culture of accountability vital to our growth. As we move forward, we plan to enhance this culture and encourage collaboration, unity, and trust among our franchisees, employees, and guests. When everyone wins together, we know we can drive amazing growth.