Donatos Pizza, a Top 25 pizza chain once owned by McDonald’s Corp., is targeting Pittsburgh as part of its next franchise expansion wave.

The Ohio-based company, which is known for toppings that extend to the edge of the pizza, believes the Pittsburgh market can support 10–20 restaurants. The growth will be driven by franchising.

“Pittsburgh is a passionate place. There’s no denying that. Pittsburghers are passionate about their community and sports teams, and they’re especially passionate about picking the best pizza,” says Donatos COO Tom Pendrey. “You name the pizza place and there will be a group of locals steadfast in their loyalty. We’re confident that our premium quality products and exceptional service will be met with warm reception among the Pittsburgh community.”

Donatos was founded in 1963 when Ohio State sophomore Jim Grote bought a small pizza shop in Columbus, Ohio, from a young seminarian for $1,300. The chain was classified “best in class” and acquired by fast food giant McDonald’s Corporation in 1999 as a way to get into the pizza business, but was bought back by the Grote family in 2003.

Today, Donatos has remained a favorite in Ohio and beyond. The restaurant serves strombolis, sub sandwiches, and salads in addition to its Edge-to-Edge pizza, Donatos’ trademark that refers to toppings that go right to the edge of the pizza, Pendrey says.

Along with the dine-in experience, Donatos also offers delivery and catering services, along with 26 toppings for customizable and signature pizzas.

“The components that define the fast-casual pizza category—fresh, super-premium toppings, inventive, and unique flavor combinations, and the ability to customize to your heart’s content— have defined the way that we have operated for more than 50 years,” Pendrey says. “As the segment’s pioneer, coupled with the increasing number of consumers seeking out this type of meal, we expect to see a lot of opportunity for growth in the coming years.”

To augment the company’s growth, Donatos is actively seeking local franchisees with restaurant experience. Including a franchise fee of $30,000, the initial investment to own and operate a Donatos restaurant ranges from $461,390 to $666,700.

The average store is about 2,000 square feet and the 2014 average volume nationwide, per store, was $1,006,000.

Franchising, News, Donatos