Despite the devastating effects of the pandemic on many restaurants, the pizza industry has prospered at a time of uncertainty. Toledo Ohio-based Marco’s is one such company that has experienced significant growth, achieving historic record-breaking sales, piloting new innovations, ongoing franchise growth, and opening their 1,000th store. Four years ago, they would have described themselves as a small brand in terms of national awareness. Now they are set to become the fourth largest pizza chain in the country. So, what’s their secret?

The Macro’s Pizza Story: From little acorns, mighty oaks grow
In October 2020, with no signs of the pandemic abating, Marco’s Pizza announced the official opening of its milestone 1,000th store in Kissimmee, Florida. Marco’s currently sits in sixth position on the leader board of America’s largest pizza, with 965 U.S. locations in 34 states – but, that’s quickly set to change. In the past year, Marco’s has opened a store every 3 and a half days. The brand now operates 1,018 outlets and is set to open a further 120 – 140 new locations in 2021. Like all success stories, they usually start from an unusual or unexpected scenario.

Back in 1978 when Italian founder Pasquale – or Pat – Giammarco was in need of a suit for his friend’s wedding, he travelled to nearby Toledo, Ohio to pick up a tuxedo. Upon reaching the city, Giammarco was struck with the idea of starting a pizza place there. And he did just that.

Giammarco made a name for itself quite quickly – the popularity of his pizza was such that customers were traveling over 20 miles to get their hands on his pizza. From day 1, Giammarco produced fresh, authentic, handmade pizza reminisce of his childhood, that to this day tastes like a little slice of Italy, whether you are in Virginia Beach or Tucson.

Not surprisingly, with a strong customer base, Giammarco started opening up more locations throughout Indiana, Michigan and Ohio, and grew into much loved brand in the process. By 2004, Macro’s pizza had increased to 120 stores. It was around about this time that, Jack Butorac, Macro’s now CEO, joined the team. Butorac, was a 40-year plus restaurant industry veteran, who saw the opportunity to grow Marco’s high-quality pizza franchise. He felt pizza lovers deserved something better and knew Marco’s Pizza was what the market was missing. Ever since, Macro’s has grown from strength to strength.

In 2015, Marco’s Pizza broke into the Top 100 Franchise 500® list – which, at the time, was considered a major step for a relatively new player in a fiercely competitive category. At the same time, they were hailed as the world’s most comprehensive franchise and received recognition for their exceptional financial stability, growth rate, and franchise system size. Two years later Marco’s Pizza went on to become the “Favorite Pizza Chain” 2017, earning top points for food quality, atmosphere, and cleanliness.

Now only 6 short years later, Marco’s is on target to take over the number 4 spot on the Franchise 500® list. So how did they do it?

The Marco’s Pizza Story: How core values and culture can drive success
The pandemic caused disruption, economic hardship and uncertainty for much of the hospitality sector, but Marco’s kept a cool head in a time of crisis. Tony Lombardi, President of Marco’s, recently commented on the past year saying, “We remained incredibly adaptive during the pandemic – rapid expansion of third-party delivery, new contact-free delivery, and curbside pickup options – and that innovation will continue to serve our network well for years to come.”

But Marco’s Pizza was already working away in the background before Covid showed up. They have been diligently examining their customer wants and the technology that is needed to get there. Similarly, they have done a bit of a self-evaluation, questioning how could they do things better and take some costs out for franchisees. As such Marco’s has and continues to explore, invest and roll out up-and-coming technologies from a new store model and pod kitchens to automated contact-free delivery and curbside service. There is no doubt that Macro’s Pizza remains unwavering in its investment in the business’ future.

The Macro’s Pizza Story: An unstoppable force
Marco’s has come a long way from its humble beginnings. They not only continue to strive for a better way to serve their customers and franchises, but they have built an incredible culture that has and continues to drive unprecedented results and propel its brand to new heights.

For those brands that are currently top three on the Franchise 500® list – the advice would be to keep at least one eye over their shoulder on the unstoppable force that’s close behind.