Mountain Mike’s Pizza has a goal to become one of the premier pizza franchises in the country.

The brand has headed toward that path since college friends Chris Britt and Ed St. Geme purchased the business in April 2017.

Jim Metevier, president and chief operating officer, was hired in September 2018 to guide growth. Before joining Mountain Mike’s, Metevier—who has 25 years in the foodservice industry—held various positions at YUM! Brands, such as chief operating officer of KFC U.S., and was also president of Biscuitville.

The company’s goal is to surpass 350 units in the next three to four years. The chain opened 30 units in 2018 and 2019 and plans to open another 20 this year while continuing to increase profitability.

Metevier took time to chat with QSR about the growth of Mountain Mike’s and the potential of the brand.

There’s been a renewed interest from franchise partners to continue growth. What about the brand’s changes in the past few years have triggered that renewed interest?

I would have to say it’s not a “renewed” interest, but rather a continued interest. Within our current franchise system, we’ve been able to grow organically for many years due to our strong business model and our solid relationships with Mountain Mike’s franchise partners, who we are beholden to. With such a strong leadership team in place, we’re ready to take a more active role in simultaneously recruiting new franchisees from outside our system into our franchise family, as well as expanding into new markets and territories. It’s an exciting time to be part of the Mountain Mike’s brand.

Other than the introduction of third-party delivery services, what other technologies and digital conveniences have you added to improve the chain?

Since the dynamic leadership duo, Chris Britt and Ed St. Geme, acquired the over 40-year-old brand in 2017, they have implemented several technological and digital conveniences to improve the customer experience.

One, the brand has launched a new consumer-facing website, which has significantly improved the overall guest experience. This was done in tandem with an updated and enhanced online ordering platform where we integrated imagery that reflects and amplifies the Mountain Mike’s brand-promises, while offering visitors a more convenient, accessible, visual and branded experience. A few key things to note about our new website:

  • Easy to navigate
  • Mobile optimized to fit any screen
  • Showcases mouthwatering product shots
  • Has dramatically improved SEO performance
  • Features dynamic locations pages
  • “Start order” calls to action throughout
  • Improved online ordering functionality
  • Improved visual experience, showing photos of each topping for guests to create their own pizza
  • FDA compliance with menu labeling

Two, our team has diligently worked with our point-of-sales provider to integrate third-party delivery partners directly into our online ordering system. This has removed any need for third-party provided tablets and provided a much more transparent experience for our franchisees. The overwhelmingly positive feedback we’ve received from our franchise partners on this change has been significant.

Three, we’ve created a brand new loyalty program, as part of our new Mountain Mike’s Mobile App that will help us drive engagement and brand affinity with our current and future guests. In addition to the loyalty program, the new app features mobile ordering, payment as well as mobile gift cards to share with friends and family. We are in beta testing right now and plan to launch at the end of Q2.

As growth continues each year, which markets are you paying the most attention to?

We are continuing to fill in areas of central and Northern California, the birthplace of Mountain Mike’s Pizza. We’re also actively expanding in Southern California with new locations steadily opening throughout Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire. We have plans in place to grow further in Oregon and Utah where we currently have single units as well as expand into new western states including Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado for new market entry this year.

What separates Mountain Mike’s from other pizza brands?

Well, it’s important to state that the pizza industry is a very crowded, oversaturated space. We’re aware that knowing who you are, who you serve, and what makes you stand out is key to finding success. As a legacy brand with over 40 years under our belt, we don’t gravitate to what’s trendy; we understand our guests’ need for quality ingredients like our famous, crispy, curly pepperoni, and the demand for a dining environment that caters to the unique needs of families of all sizes and ages. From our big screen TVs throughout the restaurant, kids’ activity areas with arcade games, and wine and beer for the grownups, there is something to keep everyone happy and entertained.

At 20 inches, our mountain-sized pizzas are the largest pizzas offered within the top-20 pizza chains in the nation. As a brand centered on meeting the needs of families, this is something we’re very proud of and it’s one of the many factors differentiating us from other pizza concepts. Additionally, our dine-in experience offers the environment that you grew up with; guests love coming to our modernized restaurants to enjoy delicious and high-quality pizza with a side of nostalgia. The larger chains within the segment focus solely on takeout and delivery, and we offer so much more than that. Mountain Mike’s is a place where memories are made while sharing a great pizza. Since the brand was founded over 40 years ago, our mission has been to bring families, sports fans and communities together to dine, share and celebrate; this is still what we are all about. 

How have partnerships with third-party delivery services impacted off-premise sales in the past year?

Through our partnerships with Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Grubhub, we have found that each complements our current business. Each platform has a unique customer base that we’re able to tap into and attract new guests that might not have been familiar with Mountain Mike’s Pizza before.

As the official sponsor of the San Francisco 49ers, how did the team’s run to the Super Bowl affect business?

As the Official Pizza of the San Francisco 49ers, Mountain Mike’s took this prestigious title to new heights. There was a ton of energy and excitement as the 49ers continued to advance, and we could really feel that at the store level. Both being “Best in the West” and “Born out of the Bay,” it’s been a natural and mutually beneficial partnership because nothing goes better together than pizza and football. To continue building upon the brand’s popularity among sports fans, we launched a lot of fun activations throughout the season including door busting deals like 49 percent off whenever the 49ers scored as well as our “Kick It with Mountain Mike’s” sweepstakes giving one lucky fan the chance to kick a field goal worth $49,000 during halftime at a 49ers game in November. We also held a fun social media contest with one fan winning a Mountain Mike’s catered Super Bowl party for 20 friends. We’re looking forward to another great season as their official pizza partner.

What’s the biggest challenge facing the pizza industry right now, and how are you approaching it?

The biggest challenge we’re facing is that everyone wants to be everything to everyone. When a brand is focusing on too many things, they often take short cuts on quality so they can compete on price. Well I can tell you right now, at Mountain Mike’s Pizza, we aren’t going to do that. As a legacy brand, we know the importance of staying power, and for over 40 years we have never sacrificed our products or the guest experience for the short term. We are known for our crispy, curly pepperoni, Mountain-sized pizzas and dough made fresh daily, and the quality of Mountain Mike’s product elevates us to a more premium experience that our guests expect and appreciate. We’re holding on tight to the attributes of our brand that our customers love and have contributed greatly to our success.

You were recently named to Entrepreneur magazine’s 2020 Franchise 500 List, appearing as No. 4 in the pizza segment. What does that accomplishment say about how far Mountain Mike’s Pizza has come in the past few years?

We were very proud to secure the fourth spot on Entrepreneurs impressive list of top pizza franchise companies. As a brand that’s been around for over 41 years, it’s almost as if we’ve been pizza’s “Best Kept Secret” until now. When the brand was acquired a few years ago, our new leadership team worked diligently to build a franchise support center and corporate team that is as passionate about the brand as its fans are. We’ve been more vocal about what makes Mountain Mike’s Pizza such a beloved brand and our journey has just begun. We will continue to climb the proverbial mountain to be the best of the best! But there are no victory laps being made yet. This prestigious ranking, among the many other rankings we’ve recently been awarded, are just recognition of our efforts to build solid partnerships with our franchisees, who are our number one customers. We know that our relationship with our franchisees will trickle down to the Mountain Mike’s guest and when everyone’s happy, we all win together. At Mountain Mike’s Pizza, we will continue to look for ways to strengthen those relationships in the future so our brand can continue to succeed and grow in the highly competitive pizza segment.

Emerging Concepts, Franchising, Pizza, Story, Mountain Mike's