An aggressive push to develop new franchises around the country is expanding the Rosati’s Pizza footprint and bringing its cuisine to new markets.
By Eric Slack
For generations, the Rosati name has been connected with excellent Italian cuisine. Built on a family tradition that dates back to the 1890s and the creation of the first Rosati’s Pizza in the Chicago area in 1964, today the company has franchises in many states and continues to grow.
“Rosati’s is known for great food,” Vice President of Franchise Development Dan Perillo says. “We believe we need to take the company to the next level, and franchising is the best way for us to expand.”
The Right Time
Rosati’s has been franchising since the late 1990s, but it is during the last year-and-a-half that the company began to make a big push for growth. Perillo was brought on board specifically to lead the expansion of the Rosati’s Pizza brand in April 2015.
“Right now, we have 20 corporate stores, and about another 200 stores as part of the brand throughout the country,” Perillo says. “We have 60 stores in our group, and between all the Rosati family members we get close to 200 stores.”
With extensive experience in franchising that dates back to the late 1980s, Perillo has helped the company reach agreements to develop more than 20 stores since June 2015. The company has been developing stores everywhere from Chicago, Indiana and Iowa to Florida and Arizona, and the goal is to have 50 more stores in development for 2017.
“We’ve been very busy, selling a lot of territories and adding a store per month,” Perillo says. “We’ve updated our look with new logo to refresh the brand, and our main focus has been on expanding with multi-unit operators,”
In Chicagoland, Rosati’s home base, the company has no problem bringing on individual unit operators. But outside of the region, Rosati’s Pizza is looking for a minimum of five units per operator.
“Now is the time to jump on franchising opportunities,” Perillo says. “This is a great company, and as a franchisor we have great experience running our own locations. That helps us communicate with franchisees about what we think works, because we do it, too.”
At present, Rosati’s Pizza is not actively advertising for franchisors. Although it might do some advertising at some point to add to its franchising push, right now it is concentrating on identifying potential franchisors, multi-unit operators who believe in Rosati’s food, brand and concept.
“What we look for are solid people, entrepreneurial thinkers who are enthusiastic,” Perillo says. “We can teach them how to make the food, but they must possess the drive to succeed.”
The process of becoming a Rosati’s franchisee begins with communication, information exchange and an application. Once the application is reviewed, Rosati’s decides whether the prospect is a fit. If they are, the company provides them with franchise disclosure documents, engages in several more conversations and brings them in for a discovery day.
“That is where we can talk and everyone has the chance to ask and answer questions,” Perillo says. “Once they sign the multi-unit franchise agreement, support is ongoing. Our support is continuous by phone, email and site visits. We can also do store audits as needed, but we are there for the franchisees as much as they need us.”
To ensure quality at each location, Rosati’s provides six weeks of training. This allows franchisees and managers to gain an understanding of approved vendors and supplies.
“For example, we use our own sauce, and the food quality must be consistent,” Perillo says. “Our success is based on who we are in terms of our food. We also make sure that our brand standards are in place.”
Another area where Rosati’s strives for consistency is point of sales systems. The company wants everyone on the same system, and it is always looking to update its technology to ensure that it is beneficial for all locations.
“We do a lot of study on the back end to determine where we will make any changes, and we do a lot of R&D into our growth opportunities,” Perillo says. “Our POS system delivers a lot of information on financial statements and food costs, and we’ve also put cameras into the stores so franchisees can maintain oversight even when out of their locations. A lot goes on in the back end to help our franchises succeed.”
Rosati’s is also open to suggestion from its operators. “You have to be willing to change, and we take all suggestions under review,” Perillo says. “Any viable change request will be considered. Communication and having an open mind helps us to change in ways that allow us to compete.”
In addition to the work with expanding Rosati’s Pizza, the organization is also working on the development of two other concepts: Maciano’s Pizza & Pastaria and Chicago Pizza Authority. Right now, the company has nine Maciano’s and three Chicago Pizza Authority locations, all corporate owned. Having those two concepts alongside Rosati’s Pizza should present even more opportunities for multi-unit operators.
As the company grows, it knows it will face challenges as it strives to reach 300 to 500 locations. It must find the right franchisees, and it must ensure that it has strong, well-trained people throughout its footprint. But the company believes the Rosati’s heritage will serve the company well as it continues on its path of expansion.
“We want to get up to adding two stores per month, adding 24 to 35 stores a year within the next five years,” Perillo says. “We know it will be difficult, but we are committed to keeping that personal touch.”