In The Details

by Katie Lee

How a constant focus on operations contributes to Marco’s Pizza’s enviable growth success in the competitive pizza segment.

Interview by Katie Lee

Less than 2 years from now, Toledo, Ohio-based Marco’s Pizza plans to hit 1,000 stores. With nearly 700 now open, 2015 will go down as a banner year for the fast-growing franchise with 116 new openings, its debut in India, and the launch of a corporate test and training kitchen, along with testing eLearning modules and a mobile ordering app. All of these grand plans for growth, however, come down to the basics of store operations and staying on top of the latest technology. “We must stay focused on our training programs to ensure we prepare the men and women who operate our stores properly,” Bryon Stephens, president and chief operating officer (COO) of Marco’s Pizza, told Retail & Restaurant Facility Business in January. Long term vision doesn’t happen without attention to the details.

R&R: Marco’s Pizza claims to be the fastest growing pizza franchise in the U.S. with one new store opening happening, on average, every other day. How many restaurants do you operate today?

Bryon Marcos PizzaStephens: With stores in 35 states, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico and now India, Marco’s is operating nearly 700 stores.

R&R: 2015 was a banner year for growth. How many new locations opened in 2015, and what is the growth forecast for 2016?

Stephens: Marco’s opened 116 stores in 2015, and will open at least 150 additional stores in 2016. We are on track to have 1,000 stores open by the end of 2017.

R&R: What else made 2015 such a pivotal year?

Stephens: In 2015, Marco’s opened its first location in India, debuted the corporate test and training kitchen, launched our new eLearning modules, and went into final testing on our new mobile ordering app. In 2015, our corporate culture of accountability really started to gel and produce results at a higher level than before, which means 2016 and beyond will bring even more incredible growth for the company.

 R&R: Tell me more about the test kitchen. How was it designed differently, and how were efficiencies improved?

marcos pizza intStephens: The kitchen we opened at the Support Center, or the corporate headquarters, is bigger than our average store because the kitchen also serves as our training kitchen. Because we are the fastest growing pizza company, we have hundreds of new franchisees and key operations leaders coming to Toledo, [Ohio], for extensive training before they open their first store. The kitchen was designed to accommodate large training and instruction classes every couple of weeks, giving the students and the instructors lots of room to learn and monitor quality.

Additionally, we included open floor space and extra power grids so we can continuously be testing the latest and greatest equipment as it comes out in the market and monitor its performance and impact on store performance. Naturally we built the kitchen as green as possible.

R&R: Speaking of “green,” please discuss any sustainable, environmentally friendly elements about the design and construction of a Marco’s Pizza.

Stephens:  Our floor tile qualifies for LEED points; our standards call for all-LED lighting; most of the new ovens are high-efficiency ovens; and our hoods are low velocity, which means they exhaust about 60% less air than just 3 years ago. [Also,] the hoods allow us to eliminate a makeup air unit in most cases. Less energy is used as a result.

R&R: What do you enjoy most about your job day to day?

Stephens: I really enjoy the challenge of building a business, from developing the strategies, developing the people, channeling the efforts of an organization to achieve mutually rewarding goals, to executing the plan and seeing it come to life for our customers. I also appreciate knowing that as a franchisor we are a means for our franchisees to achieve their goals as well, using the Marco’s business model.

R&R: What goals have you set for your team, short term and long? Five years from now?

marcos pizza foodStephens: Short term we must continue to work on improving our technology both consumer-facing and back of the house. We must stay focused on our training programs to ensure we prepare the men and women who operate our stores properly. We must begin to recruit the highest caliber men and women who are going to be our general manager/operating partners for the future, and offer economic opportunities that will commit to the brand for a lifetime.

Long term, we will add to our base of international markets to ensure that we have 500 international stores to go along with 1500 domestic stores and achieve our goal of $1 billion in total sales.

R&R: You are targeting the Rocky Mountain states and Southeast for growth. What are your goals in those markets?

Stephens: 35 new locations in Colorado and Wyoming and 300 spread over the Southeast.

R&R: What is the typical square footage of a Marco’s Pizza location?

Stephens: 1,400 to 2,000 square feet.

R&R: Describe how Marco’s Pizza handles repair and maintenance. Do you have an in-house maintenance department or do you rely on vendors? Or do franchisees handle it individually?

Stephens: Franchisees handle maintenance in their local communities.

R&R: Do you use local or national vendors? Why?

Stephens: Marco’s uses both national and local vendors. We nearly always have local bidders on our projects and in conjunction with the company’s mission to be “Community Partners of Choice,” we like to do business in our home towns. But there are plenty of national vendors involved as well.


— This article originally appeared as the cover story of the February 2016 issue of Retail & Restaurant Facility Business magazine. Email the editor at [email protected].

You may also like