The Columbus-based chain is looking for experienced operators to help grow the brand.

Sponsored by Donatos.

After almost 30 years in the industry, Mike Simon knows what it takes to run a successful restaurant chain. But after more than a decade working as vice president of operations for a large fast food chain, he knew it was time for a big change. Simon wanted out of “corporate America,” so he turned to franchising.

“I was looking for a franchise opportunity that was family-based, an industry leader in quality, and had a great culture,” he says. He found Donatos Pizza.

The brand’s successful 55-year history, family ownership, and an accessible executive team, gave Simon the confidence he needed to invest in the brand eight years ago. Most important, however, was the food.

“People come together around pizza,” Simon says. “It’s one of the few meals that appeals to most everybody’s tastes. That universal appeal is why I have been able to grow my business and scale up my Donatos holdings so quickly.”

Now, eight years later, Simon has proven not only that he has the skill to successfully grow a restaurant empire, but also the power of the Donatos brand. He now operates 41 Donatos units in Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

“Our guiding principle is that ‘Every Piece is Important’ and Mike understands that implicitly,” says Jeff Baldwin, vice president of development and franchising at Donatos. “He understands that for a franchise to succeed, the food has to be outstanding, the service has to be on-point, and the brand has to resonate with the people and businesses nearby.”

Simon and Donatos do just this. With premium, fresh pizza and strong community ties, the brand has engaged a loyal fanbase.

To reinforce this guest loyalty, the company recently launched the Donatos Pizza Love Rewards program—a move that helps Simon and his fellow franchise partners reap business rewards while making ordering easier for guests. The program has already gained more than 190,000 members and promises to help the brand continue its expansion.

In 2019, the brand is planning to aggressively grow the number of franchised units and is looking for partners who have a strong loyalty base.

“We are looking for franchise partners who want to grow with an established brand that recorded an average unit volume of $1,059,000 in 2017 and has growth market opportunities available in 24 states across the mid-Atlantic and Southeast,” Baldwin says. “Our franchise partners should have strong business management experience, understand their markets, and have strong connections to their communities.”

In exchange, Simon says Donatos offers not only strong financial results, but also a family culture and strong company leadership.

“They’re there for you and very supportive, and it’s a great opportunity that I’ve enjoyed,” he says. “Donatos has been the most refreshing thing I’ve done both personally and professionally due to the quality of the business and the people involved.”

By Erin McPherson

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