In February 1973, Hungry Howie’s humbly began as a 1,000-square-foot pizzeria in Taylor, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.

In the following decades, the pizza chain—now based in Madison Heights, Michigan—grew organically, formed franchises and partnerships, and strengthened its brand awareness. Those accomplishments are exemplified by the chain’s home state of Michigan, which houses nearly 200 of those franchises. Hungry Howie’s now operates roughly 550 units in 20 states.

Although the brand has continued to expand in other states over the years, development came to a halt in the Mitten State about 10 years ago due to saturation of markets. There were also effects from the Great Recession, especially with the downfall of the auto industry.

“We thought probably 10 years ago that we couldn’t grow anymore [in Michigan],” says Jennifer Jackson, vice president of development. “We had so many existing agreements already signed with existing franchisees that were going to open that we just closed down the development for people outside of the system.”

A decade later, Jackson says Hungry Howie’s is prepared to re-launch and invest more in Michigan. There are now franchising opportunities available statewide—Traverse City, Muskegon, St. John’s, Grand Rapids, Dearborn, and more—for new-store development, as well as the resale of established locations.

The Hungry Howie’s team realized there was more space available in Michigan after forming a partnership with Dallas-based Buxton Predictive Analytics.

“We were able to lay out to get a really good deep foundation of our customer base for moving forward with our growth outside of Michigan,” Jackson says. “So we thought, hey let’s utilize this module that we created that allowed us to see these pockets that our brand could be in that maybe we didn’t realize from a demographic standpoint however many years ago. It gave us a lot of excitement to reopen the state and re-energize that. We have such a big love for our brand here being here for so many years.

“… We started utilizing (the analytics module) outside the state of Michigan probably about a year ago and just started to re-input it in Michigan and realized, ‘Oh my gosh, we can do so much more here.’ … Because we have the data now from our actual customer base, we were able to go in and pinpoint that per household. So, we’re super excited.”

Jackson notes there is room for 35 more units within Michigan. Franchisee Robert Leger, who works with business partners to operate 65 stores across Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida, opened a store in Big Rapids, Michigan, in January and another in Melvindale, Michigan, in early February. They plan to open more in Michigan in the next year.

“It is a privilege to have had the opportunity to grow Hungry Howie’s Pizza throughout the great state of Michigan,” Leger said in a statement. “Community is extremely important to us, and all of our restaurants have become an integral part of their local neighborhood. We can’t wait to serve high-quality, delicious pizza to the local Melvindale residents and provide exceptional service to this area.”

The pizza brand is known for its flavored pizza crusts, which rolled out in the 1980s. Flavors include butter, butter cheese, Cajun, garlic herb, onion, ranch, sesame, and Asiago cheese. The pizza menu is complemented by calzone-style subs, breads, salads, and wings.

Franchisees receive support from the Hungry Howie’s corporate office in all areas of real estate, site selection, construction, design, marketing, and training. Applicants must have $100,000 in liquid assets, a $300,000 net worth, and a credit score of 700 or better. The franchise fee is $25,000, and Hungry Howie’s says the typical cost to build a franchise is between $290,600 and $538,400. The ongoing royalty fee is 5.5 percent of gross sales.

The brand has an initial training program that includes a trip to headquarters and a nearby franchise location for four weeks of classroom and on-the-job training. After opening, franchisees receive two weeks of onsite assistance.

Each of those franchisees are expected to uphold Hungry Howie’s core values: treat everyone like family, have integrity, do what you say, be hungry for growth, and have positive energy.

“We’re always looking for business-minded entrepreneurs,” Jackson says. “We want people that are really passionate about the food industry—anybody that has a background. We’re really looking for proven, restaurant industry owners or people who are really looking to buy themselves a job and get in and grow organically. … We’re just looking for those perfect partners to be able to follow our system—we’ve got a proven franchise system—and just become a part of our extended family.”

Jackson notes that growth within Hungry Howie’s isn’t limited to Michigan. Dozens of states like North Carolina and Georgia are open for development, as well.

“I just think that it’s a super exciting opportunity for any individual just because we have a proven model,” Jackson says. “We’re still one of the top-10 pizza companies in the country, but we’ve got the availability, which many of the top ones don’t in the U.S.”

Franchising, Pizza, Web Exclusives, Hungry Howie's