Industry News | September 26, 2008

Marco's Pizza Exec Sets Sights High

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Thirty-year-old pizza chain Marco's Pizza has 170 stores in 14 cities, but it's setting its sights on 500 stores by 2010. QSR sat down with the company's vice president of new business development, Bryon Stephens, to learn specifically how the brand plans to grow and who exactly they're targeting for franchising.

In 2007, Marco’s pizza ran a franchisee campaign aimed at attracting laid off auto workers. With Wall Street in shambles, will Marco’s be recruiting ex-investment bankers this year?

Over the last month and a half, we have had a number of displaced financial institution individuals contacting us responding to our ads. One of the gentlemen we’ve been discussing with who is a displaced financial person just became an area rep for us. He bought the entire Dallas-Fort Worth territory. So there is some movement on that front even though it hasn’t been targeted by us.

Hurricane Ike has really ravaged parts of Texas, leaving operators scrambling to rebuild or move out. Can you tell readers about your expansion in Florida following the hurricanes a few years ago?

There is a huge amount of reconstruction that happens and redevelopment that happens and because of that the cost of construction materials and contractors tends to spike. So, there can be some negativity that comes with that. But there also can be some opportunities when rebuilding is going on. Usually businesses don’t relocate into those markets, so they make other decisions, and there are opportunities to go into those markets and be a provider with very little competition.

Marco’s expansion goals are lofty—500 units by 2010. What markets are you specifically looking at?

They’re spread out all over the country, they don’t just happen to be in one area. Markets like Indianapolis, Indiana; Tampa, Florida; Columbus, Georgia; a couple markets in the Carolinas; Knoxville, Tennessee. What you find they have in common is that they are good size metro markets but they have not had the accelerated growth like Los Angeles has had. So we have a favorable cost of doing business in those towns. In those markets, with just three stores being developed, we’ll be able to be on a continual television buy which will really boost our top-line sales and give us a chance to extract profits for our franchisees.

As a former Yum! exec, international expansion is in your blood. Are you making those kinds of plans for Marco’s?

We do have a great deal of interest from international … We have a group coming in next week that will be our first foray into what I’d call an international development. With the economy in the U.S. being what it is right now, I think we may start to explore some of that.

The ones we’re’ looking at right now are the Caribbean and Latin America, possibly Mexico or Central America because they’re close and would be easiest for us to manage.

--Blair Chancey