If a franchisee can support a multi-unit deal, Stoner’s is willing to do larger sales, Bergelt says. The brand is also open to single-unit expansion.
Bergelt says opening a Stoner’s franchise is more affordable compared to other pizza brands. The cost for a franchisee to open a Stoner’s location is about $150,000. Those franchisees will often see a return in their investment within about two years, Bergelt says.
“From a traction standpoint and why [Stoner’s] stood out from other pizza places is the unit-level economics,” he says. “Comparatively to the other major chains out there that are upward of $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 all the way up to a million bucks to put together a restaurant, Stoner’s falls into kind of an affordable range. It opens us up to a broader franchisee market because capital requirements aren’t what they are for other major restaurants brands.”
“We’re trying to really look at each opportunity individually,” Bergelt adds. “We’ve got some very, very large folks that have hundreds of restaurants in their portfolio and they view this as an exciting kind of ground level, green space brand that they can grow with us. So with those kind of folks we’re willing to look at Western markets.”
It’s more than just a name
As social norms continue to change positively for the marijuana culture, Stoner’s is planning on capitalizing on markets and products where it is legalized. Expansion will continue in other areas, but the company has the potential to stamp its brand into markets at the beginning of the marijuana movement. “We understand there’s going to be a material implication for consumers and their interests and we know we’re just at the inception of what that means and we’re ready to position the brand to take advantage of its own growth along those lines,” Bergelt says.
Stoner’s has seen an uptick regarding inbound organic interest from franchisees in legalized states and even international interest from Canada, where marijuana is now legal.
“Obviously, we’re getting a lot of organic interest just from legalized states and things of that nature because it’s on trend,” Bergelt says. “We are getting a lot of natural inbound organic interest from those [legalized] states because I believe the brand resonates a little bit more now that it’s a little bit more socially acceptable for marijuana culture. So from a franchise perspective we’re looking at everything.”
Stoner’s wants to be a leader in the growing segment. Introducing CBD and hemp into an extended product line are in the works, the chain said. A private label of CBD-infused beverages and sodas are in development as well, and other products like sauces and chili oils could follow soon as retail line extensions.
“The convergence of where CBD and hemp are going to play a role in the food space—not necessarily THC derivatives or components—but we’re a big believer in what CBD can do, the health implications,” Bergelt says. “We are also moving into a space where we will be segment leaders.”
The delivery equation
The company is heavily focused on delivery, with 51 percent of revenue coming from off-premises sales. That model paired with the overall growing need of convenience sets Stoner’s up in a place that is attractive to customers and lucrative for the brand and franchisees. Bergelt says, “From a pizza perspective convenience reigns king. It’s kind of the predominant niche when someone’s thinking of the most convenient option—pizza rings true.”
“We are very heavy delivery focused and that was another tenet of what attracted us to the brand,” he adds. “Knowing that delivery is going to be paramount, having a product that can translate to that changing demographic and maintain product integrity for the customer—that’s important as well for us.”
In order to become a competitor in the delivery segment, the company needed a complete overhaul of technology at the stores. From point-of-sale systems to automation in the kitchen, each location was completely updated. Stoner’s is launching an app by the end of 2018 that will help improve both the in-store and delivery customer experience.