In a move that will
better position both companies for expansion, two metro-Detroit based fast
food franchises have joined forces. Papa Romano’s Pizza, headquartered in
Commerce Township, Michigan, has merged its operations with Mr. Pita
restaurants, a 35-unit Sterling Heights, Michigan-based chain.

Casey Askar, chairman and CEO of Papa Romano’s, has
assumed the role of chairman and CEO of Mr. Pita. Frank Lombardo, president
and founder of Mr. Pita, has been named president of Papa Romano’s while
continuing to serve as president of Mr. Pita, overseeing day-to-day
operations of both chains.

A veteran of the pizza industry, Askar quietly purchased the 50-plus
store Papa Romano’s chain from former owner and founder Ronald Hancock in
February. Since acquiring the chain, he has renovated and updated
the stores, opened three new locations, including a new prototype in Ann
Arbor and purchased seven formerly franchised Papa Romano’s
locations that now operate as company-owned stores. He also relocated the
company’s corporate headquarters from Farmington Hills, Michigan to Commerce

“The partnership with Mr. Pita was a logical next step for us,” Askar says. “We believe it presents tremendous opportunity for both brands going
forward and postures us for national expansion,” Askar says. “We’re excited
and very optimistic about the potential.”

Adds Lombardo, “Mr. Pita had long been contemplating a partnership and
has found in Papa Romano’s a partner that provides just the right fit. We
are two strong, locally-originated businesses, and we expect to build on
each other’s strengths, as well as benefit from cost savings and economies
of scale that come from combining our purchasing, advertising, corporate
staffing, and other internal operations.”

Lombardo also notes that the partnership offered ample opportunity for
co-branded venues. “Mr. Pita is a highly co-brandable chain that works well
with other brands. We anticipate aggressive expansion of the Mr. Pita and
Papa Romano’s brands, both individually and in co-branded format,” Lombardo says. “As a co-brand, our concept offers a rare opportunity for
franchisees to be able to combine two complementary brands under one roof
with the benefit of shared overhead. That’s very unusual in this

Papa Romano’s Pizza has 53 restaurants throughout southern and central
Michigan, caters parties of 10 or more and offers a full menu of
traditional and specialty pizzas, breads, salads, chicken, subs, pasta and
more. Mr.
Pita’s 35 Michigan locations serve more than 45 varieties of hot and cold
rolled pita sandwiches, Oven Baked Pitas, Pita Pizzas, and Pita
Quesadillas, on fresh pita bread.