To celebrate its 60th anniversary, Donatos recently held a ceremony and ribbon cutting at its first restaurant on Thurman Avenue where the family-owned company honored its past while also unveiling new innovation being developed for use in its restaurants.
Founded on May 31, 1963, on the south side of Columbus, Donatos features the Edge to Edge pizza created by founder Jim Grote with premium toppings abundantly covering every famous thin crust. Over the past 60 years, the company has grown from its original location on Thurman Avenue to now having its pizza served in 27 states and more than 450 locations with more growth on the horizon including three franchise restaurants slated to open this month.
The ceremony at the original store was emceed by Donatos CEO Tom Krouse and featured remarks from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, State Senator Hearcel Craig, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, and Ohio Restaurant Association President John Barker. A ribbon cutting ceremony featuring four generations of the Grote family was led by Columbus Chamber of Commerce CEO Don DePerro to usher in the next 60 years and beyond. Many members of the original crew from that first location on Thurman Avenue were also in attendance and were recognized, and the city of Columbus renamed Thurman Avenue in front of the restaurant Donatos Way.
“Jim Grote opened more than just a pizza shop 60 years ago,” says Krouse in his remarks during the ceremony. “He opened minds to a different way to do business – one that was built with virtues, character, and ethics. What started with an 800 square foot location is now a 300-million-dollar company that serves pizza and principles in 27 states across the country.”
Grote, who founded Donatos as a 19-year-old, shared with those in attendance about his determination to bring his values with him when he started the business. “Many people told me that if I brought my morals and principles with me that my business would fail,” he said. “I was determined to prove them wrong. I’ve always believed if you treat people the way that you want to be treated and lead with love in every decision you make, that things will work out.”
As part of the ceremony, tours of the recently remodeled original location included the first public viewing of new technology being developed for the brand by Agápe Automation, which is located in the Edge Innovation Hub on the Donatos campus. These included the SM^RT Saucer, the SM^RT Ring, the SM^RT Pepp, and the SM^RT Cutter.
The goal with the automation is two-fold. It speeds up the pizza-making process while at the same time ensuring the consistent quality that has become synonymous with Donatos over the past 60 years. It also reduces some of the repetitive tasks that associates have typically done and allows for their time to be reallocated to serving customers even more effectively.
With a solid 60-year foundation built on the principles of doing the right thing and leading with love, serving great pizza, and always looking for ways to improve through innovation, the future of the company is very bright.