In 2008, the restaurant industry was strained amid the nationwide economic crisis. Even pizza chains, which usually remain strong in financial downturns, were challenged. Hungry Howie’s, which was founded in Michigan and operates a core segment of its business there, faced an especially tough market when the state’s auto industry was shaken.
But Hungry Howie’s acted fast to reimage and rebuild the brand. With a new ad agency, asset library, marketing, and heavy investments in technology, the brand not only bounced back; it thrived. Now this pizza chain is celebrating 27 consecutive quarters of same-store sales increases as it looks toward national expansion.
“The rest of the industry has been challenged, but we’re still comping positive sales,” says Steve Jackson, president and CEO of Hungry Howie’s, who opened the chain’s second store and has been dedicated to the brand ever since. “That’s a result of all the hard work we have done.”
Hungry Howie’s, a brand with 44 years of experience, has a long history of innovation. In the early 1980s, it became the first pizza chain to offer flavored crusts, which have since been widely emulated throughout the industry. But the key to the chain’s success has been its continued dedication to adapting to its business climate.
Now, as it looks to the future, the brand’s pricing strategy remains a powerful differentiator. Though the chain used to offer $6.99 and $7.99 LTOs, it has found success in offering specials at the $5, $10, and $20 levels, drawing in more consumers and increasing store sales.
“When customers are looking for value conscious offerings, we can wave our hands and say, ‘We have a $5 deal for you,’” Jackson says. “It’s a meal deal for every budget, and that helps our franchisees.”
The brand’s investment in technology serves as another powerful advantage. The use of one unified, standardized POS system allowed Hungry Howie’s to create a brand-exclusive app, giving franchisees access to real time data on their stores. In addition, because pizza restaurants are able to gather customer’s home addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses, this technology allows Hungry Howie’s to understand consumer spending patterns and identify when specific customers have missed their regular visits or orders and have been lost as customers. This makes it possible for the brand to reach back out with special offers and marketing materials to recapture that business.
“When people see what we offer to our franchisees from the technology standpoint, they will be amazed at what we can show them,” Jackson says.
Though Hungry Howie’s has already expanded from a regional Midwestern staple to a national brand in 21 states, the company has strong growth plans. This pizza concept is focused on expanding in key markets in states that already have a presence but not a high concentration of stores, such as Texas, Utah, the Carolinas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. The company is also looking for multiunit franchisees.
Though it is a large chain, Hungry Howie’s still operates like a family business, so potential franchisees must be the right fit for the company’s culture and believe in its core values. Also necessary is a strong drive to help grow the brand.
“We’ve been excited about our brand for 44 years, but with this reenergizing in the last five to six years, I’m more excited about the future of Hungry Howie’s than ever.”
For more information about franchising opportunities with Hungry Howie’s, visit www.HungryHowies.com
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