After a trip to Calabria in Southern Italy, the rugged and parched province that provides the lower tip of the Italian boot, a dream to make delivery pizza different, better, and special was born. A pizza dough made daily from only 100 percent whole wheat flour, yeast, water, salt, olive oil, and secret Calabrian traditions, combined with crushed tomatoes and daily shredded mozzarella. Simple ingredients, yet executed at the highest level, and built around the convenience of delivery and take-out. Since acquiring the rights to develop the U.S. market in 2005, Sarpino’s USA has steadily been building locations with the understanding that when it comes to flavor – fresh and daily chopped ingredients are the only building blocks needed for great meals. Now with nearly 50 units spread across the Midwest, Sarpino’s has its sights set on expansion through franchising in Florida, Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Colorado, and across the Southeast.
From the first time Sarpino’s opened in the U.S. in 2005 to its first ever national franchise push now in 2022, the brand has been ingrained in the idea that delivery and take-out pizza can be done better. Today, those core values still determine the company’s direction and have kept the brand thriving and growing despite the turmoil of the last few years.
“Almost everyone can relate to freshly made pizza with the best ingredients – whole wheat flour, crushed tomatoes, whole milk mozzarella – because there is an emotional connection to that kind of authenticity,” says David Chatkin, president of Sarpino’s USA. “We’ve remained true to our heritage since day one at that’s not something we will ever sacrifice. But as the restaurant industry and consumer tastes evolve, we’re doing the same – both with our menu and our franchise offering. From our completely vegan menu to our specialty pizzas – our artisanal approach is just not something you find very often in the big chains or in most independent shops. We like to cook from scratch, and we’re proud that we get to tell that story to our customers with each order. While the Midwest has known and loved us for many years, we’re excited to introduce our fresh-is-first Sarpino’s approach to more cities in Florida, and across the Southeast and Midwest.”
Whereas the Sarpino’s USA story began more than 15 years ago, the brand has grown and introduced new menu items along the way while refining its systems and procedures for scratch cooking and baking. Today, a typical Sarpino’s menu includes salads, wings, sandwiches, calzones, and specialty pizzas, in addition to a completely vegan menu as well. The investment has paid off. Despite the onset of the pandemic, Sarpino’s has seen double digit increases over the last few years and average unit volumes exceeding $1.2 million.
Sarpino’s focus on a delivery and take-out only model, menu choices, low cost of entry, balanced labor and food costs, world class training and support, technology, and profitability, are credited for igniting the brand’s surge into franchise development. Furthermore, Sarpino’s has made the biggest investment possible in the one thing that is most important to the brand – its people. From investing in bringing team members to Pal’s Sudden Service to learn about its award-winning dedication to training and employee development to its own 30-day executive team opening support, Sarpino’s is about creating hyper-efficient operations for its franchisees to maximize their success.
“Our longstanding history of operating multiple restaurants across the Midwest provided us with the runway and experience to position Sarpino’s for long term franchising success,” adds Scott Nelowet, Sarpino’s director of franchise development. “There was a fundamental shift happening in consumer dining habits prior to 2020, which the pandemic simply accelerated. Sarpino’s delivery and take-out model is well positioned for today’s guests that demands more transparency and authenticity in the food they choose to eat. This is allowing our franchise partners to take full advantage as we grow.”
A small real estate footprint, hyper-efficient operations, and the brand’s willingness to listen to its franchise partners has kept franchisees operating costs more stable compared to others in the segment. Furthermore, smaller, and more nimble restaurants have lowered the barrier of entry into ownership allowing franchisees to enter previously untouched territories while still benefiting from the experience, purchasing power, training and support that Sarpino’s provides. Through the end of 2022, Sarpino’s is targeting approximately 10 new franchise agreements and about 6-8 new openings.
“That’s part of the magic of our growth potential – we’re very realistic about how fast, exactly where, and with whom we want to grow,” said Nelowet. “Our nearly 20 years of restaurant management and development experience gives us a unique perspective about opening successful restaurants that maximize profitability. Other brands simply don’t have that luxury.”
With a strategic five-year growth plan in place, Sarpino’s is laying out opportunities in areas with huge development potential such as South Florida, from Miami up to the Palm Beaches, and Georgia to name a few.
“As we move forward, it will be critically important that we continue to lay out our foundation for development over the next few years – this means increasing our awareness for franchise growth as a means for investment. While we are well known throughout parts of the Midwest, there are plenty of people that have yet to be introduced to Sarpino’s,” says Chatkin. “With the help of our growing franchisee base, our strong culture and our commitment to scratch made food - we know the future is bright.”