Pizza Factory Franchisees Strengthen Brand by Taking a Stand
Risky, bold and purposeful are three words that describe the most successful brands today –at least according to Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva, who recently shared her expertise on why taking a stand and being bold can strengthen a company.
In her feature for the October issue of Franchising USA, Riva reminded readers that brands have the opportunity to use their influence to stand for something, and aligning your actions with a cause that’s reflective of your company values will further support your brand mission. She focused on supporting a cause, engaging with community and making a difference as effective ways to use that power.
Additionally, taking a stand on societal issues (when appropriate) can be a great opportunity to interact with your fans and potential customers. In fact, nowadays, people want brands to speak out – a 2018 study by Cone/Porter Novelli found that 71% of Americans expect companies to connect with them emotionally on issues that matter to them personally.
Riva referred to Pizza Factory’s family-friendly restaurants and its “No Bully Zone” program, which aims to put an end to bullying. The restaurants have signage, napkins and other messaging about the No Bully Zone, which prompts a lot of questions from guests. Riva stressed that this is a great way to open up a conversation about the issue.
Pizza Factory’s most recent initiative has involved donating “Friends are Awesome” benches as a way to extend the anti-bullying message into schools. The brand visits elementary schools across the country to present them with a symbolic bench and to discuss the importance of friendship and inclusion when kids are at an impressionable age.
Pizza Factory’s anti-bullying program and commitment to encouraging its employees and guests to treat others with respect wins it high marks in local communities and media coverage. It is important, Riva noted in her article, to consider the effect that a brand’s actions can have on the world. Being bold and voicing your opinion on important matters can be an effective way to strengthen your business (brand) and open the door for a deeper, emotional connection with your customers.
Pizza Factory Hatches New Express Model to Fuel Expansion
By Ben Coley
Pizza Factory is no exception to the pandemic-related success of the pizza segment.
The 105-unit West Coast chain is driving sales in all avenues. In fact, 10 stores beat their all-time same-store sales record in March. Granted, the restaurants were lapping the beginning of COVID last year, but to set marks not ever seen before—that’s an entirely different ball game, says CEO MJ Riva. Systemwide, Pizza Factory experienced its best March in five years.
Through the growth of Pizza Factory’s loyalty app and online ordering, franchisees know there’s opportunity to capitalize on more demand. How to go about that expansion is a question Pizza Factory has tried to answer dating back to pre-pandemic times.
As Riva explains, some franchisees are in metropolitan markets where they may have a 3,500-square-foot store, but they want to capture a larger audience. Pizza Factory needed a way to fill in the gaps, but in a cost-effective manner. Those early discussions led to the creation of a new, off-premises only Express model.
The Express store not only allows franchisees to add another location without the heavy investment and overhead of a typical sit-down restaurant, but it also helps them grow in their community.
“Mostly our goal was to reduce the kitchen and the equipment so that it’s easier or less expensive to get into, make it more efficient, and try to make it to where it’s just an easier model for people to be more of a multi-unit operator,” Riva says. “It’s much easier to operate one of those than it is a dine-in.”
The Express restaurants were created in partnership with design agency Rubber and Road Creative. Starting at 1,000 square feet, the upcoming locations will divert a portion of their traffic to a pickup window. This will alleviate bottlenecking inside the store between customers ordering at the register and those wanting to pick up their orders.
In terms of the exterior, Riva says it will be hard to miss. There will be bright, LED lighting so customers feel comfortable entering the restaurant regardless of what time it is. Pizza Factory is also placing its own delivery drivers in the front parking lot instead of the back to give the appearance that business is flowing.
“One for safety of [the delivery drivers],” Riva says. “But the other is again to keep that engagement of there’s something going on, you’re seeing drivers leaving, and there’s people around. So safety is a big deal. It’s becoming even bigger for people to feel safe.”
The menu will be reduced to the most popular items. Whereas regular restaurants carry somewhere in the range of 10 sandwiches and seven pastas, Express stores will carry three sandwiches and two pastas. Pizza and salad offerings will be slimmer, as well. But there is flexibility. For example, if a unit enters an area beside a sandwich shop, and the franchisee doesn’t feel it’s necessary to carry sandwiches, Pizza Factory won’t mandate it. The same is true for when an operator feels it’s best to add a salad or another item.
Two are planned for Texas and Merced, California. Riva says there’s a couple more that have signed, but she doesn’t want to release the markets until they’re definitively locked down. Several others are looking at the Express model right now and are in the process of finding locations. Riva expects that going forward, at least in the immediate future, 70 percent of new stores will be Express because of the model’s newness. After COVID settles, she believes the proportion will balance out.
“The reason why I give such a high percentage is because this is really going to draw a lot of multi-unit operators,” Riva says. “The ones that we have in the system now have multiple stores with us, but they’re all sit-down. The flexibility of being able to open up five and actually doing an area development agreement is what I think is going to drive those numbers up higher for the Express, at least initially.”
Pizza Factory is in five states on the West Coast, but the brand recently decided to open up franchising to more of the country—in part because of demand for the Express model. Pizza Factory recently announced an agreement to open a sit-down restaurant in Athens, Georgia—the company’s first Southeast location. The store will be operated by Brandon Broadwell, a former Californian who often visited a Pizza Factory owned by Riva, who still serves as a franchisee.
Pizza Factory is looking for more multi-unit operators in Georgia and the Southeast, as well as Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington. There are some locations in the pipeline for the home state of California, as well.
“What started this whole thing was if we’re going to do [Express], let’s just go ahead and open it up too,” Riva says. “We’ve always had interest from folks in other states, but we’ve always held off and wanted to make sure that we had suppliers and everything. So we’ve been working on that, trying to make sure that when we do open in other states, that we’re ready, and we can support them as well as we do in the states that we’re already in.”
The Express model is yet another option among Pizza Factory’s list of choices for potential franchisees. For its traditional dine-in locations, Pizza Factory offers new-build or conversion prototypes ranging from 1,500 square feet to 4,000 square feet. The larger end of the spectrum includes an arcade area, banquet room, and big-screen TVs. The chain prides itself on that type of flexibility. The 42-year-old pizza brand has never been cookie cutter, especially since it often goes after second-generation locations. Every store comes with similar proprietary elements so customers know it’s Pizza Factory, but the chain works hard to adapt and project a local, pizzeria atmosphere.
Pizza Factory has seen success in this endeavor. Riva recalls reading the review of one customer who said he picks Pizza Factory over any corporate brand. Of course, Riva’s first thought was, “Oh my God, he doesn’t even know that we’re franchise. How do I not burst this guy’s bubble and not turn him off now, but at the same time tell him thank you?”
Riva chuckles at the conundrum. It’s a good problem to have.
“That’s very nice because that’s what we want to do,” Riva says. “We don’t want the flashy menu boards and all that stuff up there. We want to be very localized. Even in our Express models, there’s going to be a wall that’s going to have the name of the town very large and also speak to our anti-bullying program and the community-type things that we do. So we want to make sure that people feel—regardless of what size—that this is their local pizza place that they can go to.”
With sales reaching new heights and expansion in full swing, the biggest threat to Pizza Factory’s momentum is the labor crisis, which is hitting nearly every restaurant brand. Riva says everyone she’s spoken to—regardless of industry and pay scale—has had issues with the employment market. Since the start of the pandemic, many operators have pointed fingers at the enhanced weekly unemployment insurance. President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID package, which passed in early March, gives unemployed workers a $300 weekly boost in payments until early September.
Riva says franchisees are feeling the crunch. Some that have been in the business for 20 to 30 years are working more than they ever have.
“I mean when you go to a Starbucks, and they’re closed because they say they have no staff and that they’ll reopen tomorrow at a certain time, then you know it’s pretty bad,” Riva says.
Riva won’t discount the employment issue having some effect on the opening of future stores, although it’s impossible to tell where that may happen. She does know that Pizza Factory usually receives a plethora of applications from high school and college students, but the chain isn’t seeing it right now.
All the restaurant can do is adjust to the new environment, like relying more on third parties to alleviate the shortage of company delivery drivers.
“I don’t think it’s a permanent issue by any means, but I do think it could be an issue, and you just have to adapt to it,” Riva says. “You get the people that you can, and our staff will go out and help someone open a store while they’re trying to get their crew together. I think the latest store that we opened, our crew was there longer in order to help the owner get some employees hired and trained. Like I said, we’re normally just overrun with applications. It’s just not happening.”
Major brands are going on hiring sprees in anticipation of an explosive summer, an exciting phase that’s already hitting Pizza Factory, Riva says. Locations in tourist-driven markets and travel corridors have seen a 15 percent increase in sales because of all the movement.
Full-service dining is returning as consumers gain confidence. Riva thinks the summer will play out just as everyone in the industry is predicting—a swarm of customers eager to dine out after being cooped up for so long.
“I think it’s slowly starting to happen in the stores now,” Riva says. “At least that’s what we’re seeing.”
California’s Pizza Factory Tempts Fate with the First Location in Texas
By Teresa Gubbins | May 13, 2021
A California pizza chain that favors the suburbs is coming to Texas: Called Pizza Factory, it’ll open its first location in Texas in the town of Fate, east of Rockwall, at 131 E. Fate Main Pl.
According to a release, it’ll open in late summer.
Pizza Factory was founded more than 30 years ago in Oakhurst, California, near Yosemite National Park. There are now 30 locations, most in California, but also
Nevada and Arizona, but they aspire to maintain a hometown pizzeria ambience.
The Texas debut is via a franchise from Mike and Terri Sanchez, a husband-and-wife team who became aware of Pizza Factory since they’re from Filmore, California. They began franchising in Nevada, before deciding to move to Texas.
“Pizza Factory has always meant a lot to our family,” says Terri Sanchez in a statement. “As Mike and I started to look for an opportunity where we could become our own boss, Pizza Factory was an easy choice. After successfully launching three Nevada-based restaurants and seeing firsthand the special connection we formed with the community, we knew expanding with the brand was in our future. Following our family’s move to Texas, Fate was the perfect town for Pizza Factory.”
They offer a vast menu of not just pizza but also pasta, wings, sandwiches, salads, beer, and wine.
Pizzas come in five sizes, from an 8-inch mini with four slices, all the way up to a 16- inch X-Large with 12 slices. Specialty pizzas include:
- all meat
- BBQ chicken
- pesto & sundried tomato
• Greek pizza with black olives, green pepper, red onion, and feta cheese
They also have sub sandwiches, served on an 8-inch French roll, that include meatball, sausge, Italian sub, BBQ chicken, and veggie.
Pastas are your basic spaghetti & meatballs, plus fettucine alfredo, ravioli, and lasagna.
Appetizers include three bready items: garlic bread, pizza bread (like a bread version of pizza, topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese), and twisted breadstix. There are also wings; salads including a Greek, Caesar, and antipasto with deli meats; and a salad bar, which you can get in a one-trip version or all-you-can-eat.
The chain operates a variety of formats including fast-casual service and a new Express quick-service model, which is the approach the Fate store will take.
The largest is a 4,000-square-foot option with multiple dining sections, an arcade area for the kids, banquet rooms for parties and social gatherings, and big-screen TVs throughout the restaurant.
The Sanchezes aren’t stopping at Fate: “We’re extremely excited to bring the concept into a new state and introduce its awesome offerings to more neighborhoods,” they say.
Reno Pizza Factory changes hands
Multi-brand franchisee, Ron Chadwick, has assumed ownership of the Reno Red Rock Pizza Factory store.
Chadwick’s nephew, Kyle Hess, will serve as the store’s general manager, according to a news release. Chadwick also owns five L&L Hawaiian Barbecue stores in Reno and Houston.
“As I began searching for my next business venture in the restaurant space, I came across Pizza Factory and was imminently drawn to its strong relationships with its customers and brand values,” Chadwick said in the release. “I truly have a passion for restaurant operations and I am extremely excited to start my ownership journey with Pizza Factory, especially with its history of success in Reno alone. I see a thrilling future with Pizza Factory and am eager to continue expanding with the brand.”
At his L&L restaurants, Chadwick has provided free meals and even free trips to a local teacher and two students. He hopes to implement similar initiatives at his Pizza Factory location in Reno.
“With business experience and a dedication to giving back like Ron’s, it is clear he upholds all of the qualities that make a great Pizza Factory owner,” Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva said in the release. “His understanding of operations, community involvement and passion for the restaurant industry makes him the perfect fit to lead our Reno Red Rock location. I have no doubt he will continue to make the restaurant not only a success but a community staple and I am looking forward to seeing him grow with our brand.”
Pizza factory is a quick-service brand that operates in more than 100 cities annual. Its headquarters are in Oakhurst, California.
Pizza Factory Reports Sales Bump
As the pizza industry prevails, Pizza Factory is riding the momentum into 2021 and revealing positive sales increases to start the year strong.
In January 2021, all stores were up 11.1 percent in YTD sales and same store sales soared up to 15.5 percent. In addition to the brand highs, a number of restaurants were up 90 to 187 percent in online sales for the month of January.
Earlier this year, Pizza Factory also experienced its highest performance in brand history for its Loyalty App, doubling the YOY sales numbers from 2020-2021. Accompanying the app’s record-breaking performance was an increase of 182 percent in Loyalty YOY sales and online sales rising by 75 percent.
The increase is largely due to Pizza Factory’s partnership with Punchh, a loyalty and engagement platform that redefines customer usage on industry apps. As Pizza Factory continues to diversify its approach to community-cherished service, it also embraced a partnership with Soci, an advanced social media marketing tool to automate engaging content across its 100-plus location.
Taking into account the consumer demand for off-premise dining, Pizza Factory recently launched its Express model to optimize delivery and curbside operations and provide flexible build out options for franchisees.
“Pizza Factory is constantly catering to our modern-day guests and our Loyalty app, partnerships and sleek new models help us do an awesome job at that,” says Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva. “It’s been a great start to the new year and we were blown away by our loyal guests that continue to support Pizza Factory through the many channels we offer our products. There are many exciting elements in the pipeline for Pizza Factory with our Express rendering and an abundance of new franchise partners.”
Adding to the brand’s growth, Pizza Factory welcomed a number of new franchisees to its system including David Danenberg, who is opening Pizza Factory’s first Express location in Fresno; Ron Chadwick, a multi-brand operator who will take over operations at the Reno location; and existing Pizza Factory franchisee Allison Williams who signed on to operate, revamp and reopen a well-performing restaurant in San Andreas.
Pizza Factory maintains its reputation for family-friendly dining and high-quality products, offering fresh, never frozen hand-tossed pizza, pasta, wings, sandwiches, salads, beer, wine and more. With aggressive development efforts underway, Pizza
Factory is actively growing from its West Coast roots and adding restaurants across the nation. Currently, the brand has a special development focus on California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, Wyoming and Washington.
As Pizza Factory enters this new era of growth, the company is offering a limited development incentive program including a reduced franchise fee, waived royalties for three months and more. This applies to new franchisees wanting to covert or build from the ground up.
Northwest Fresno Lost Its Pizza Place. Now This New Pizza Restaurant Is Coming Soon
By Bethany Clough | February 4, 2021
When locally owned DaVinci’s Pizza closed its restaurant at the northwest corner of Herndon and Marks avenues, the neighborhood was sad to see it go.
People mourned the closure on a Facebook page dedicated to the neighborhood. “A classic,” one person called it.
A sign on the door of the empty restaurant says, “To all of our loyal patrons over the years: I am sad to say sales have been an on-going struggle at this location. This location is closed.”
It goes on to invite customers to the DaVinci’s at Willow and Alluvial avenues.
But the pizza restaurant at Herndon and Marks won’t stay empty for a long. A Pizza Factory is planning to move into the spot.
David Danenberg, who grew up in Tulare, plans to open the Pizza Factory franchise at the location in late February.
He has a small business selling gourmet hot dogs at Big Hat Days and other events, and is moving to Fresno to run the Pizza Factory.
The restaurant won’t have tables inside, even after COVID-19 has passed. It will be a smaller, express version of Pizza Factory’s other locations, he said.
It will deliver.
In addition to pizza, the restaurant will also sell pasta, including spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo, and salads.
“It’s all high quality in-house made stuff,” he said. “We make everything fresh every day from the meatballs to the dough that we use.”
Since he’ll be focusing on just one location, Danenberg thinks the spot can be successful.
Pizza Factory has one other location in Fresno with different owners, on First Street
south of Nees Avenue and several locations in outlying communities.
Franchise Marketing Radio: Mary Jane Riva with Pizza Factory
By Angi Shields | November 6, 2020
Mary Jane Riva is the CEO and president of Pizza Factory, an iconic neighborhood pizzeria with 100 locations in states across the West Coast. Mary Jane has been in the industry for more than 30 years and has helped Pizza Factory grow into a community staple.
Starting out as a Pizza Factory franchisee for 24 years, Mary Jane become the CEO of the brand in 2012 and continues to uphold the community ties the brand is known for as they continue to grow. Most recently the brand was ranked on Franchise Business Reviews Top Food And Beverage Franchise List.
Follow Pizza Factory on LinkedIn.
Pizza Factory Rated Top Food And Beverage Franchise By Franchise Business Review
OAKHURST, Calif. – Pizza Factory announced today that it is one of just 35 franchises to be acknowledged as an award-winning brand on the 2020 Top Food and Beverage Franchises list by Franchise Business Review.
Pizza Factory is a 35-year-old, go-to neighborhood spot to experience family- friendly dining, high-quality meals and a hardworking staff that’s passionate about service. Known for its close-ties to each community that its restaurants serve, Pizza Factory continues to break waves in the industry and skyrocket as a leader in the pizza space.
“We are beyond honored to be included on this year’s Top Food and Beverage Franchises list—a recognition truly based on our franchise owners’ experiences,” said Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva. “We have our amazing franchise owners to thank for their feedback and our home office’s commitment to growing together. Our approachable leadership team and the genuine support they offer is so important to foster relationships between everyone. Though we continue to grow, we’ll always remain a tight-knit family.”
Unlike other quick-service pizzerias, everything on Pizza Factory’s menu is prepared fresh with ingredients, such as hand-grated 100 percent mozzarella cheese, slow-cooked meat sauce and meatballs that are hand rolled in-house. As a differentiator, the concept also offers a wider menu variety than most with hot and cold sandwiches, pastas, chicken wings, beer, wine and more.
To select the companies on this year’s list of top food and beverage franchises, Franchise Business Review analyzed 18 months’ worth of data from over 4,300 franchise owners representing 100 franchise brands in the food sector regarding their overall satisfaction with their brands and their likelihood to recommend them to others.
“Potential business owners may be initially attracted to the hype around a particular brand or the overall idea of running a restaurant, but this should come second behind thorough due diligence. Prospective franchisees must do their homework and compare opportunities side-by-side,” said Michelle Rowan, president & COO of Franchise Business Review. “Carefully considering feedback from current franchise owners as well as independent third-party rankings and reviews can aid in your decision making. The 35 award-winning food brands that made the list of Top Food and Beverage Franchises were lauded for their strong leadership, open communication, and ability to work WITH franchisees to navigate all the challenges thrown at them this year.”
Franchise Business Review, a market research firm that performs independent surveys of franchisee satisfaction, provides the only ranking of franchises based solely on actual franchisee satisfaction and performance. Franchise Business Review publishes rankings of the top franchises as well as special interest reports throughout the year recognizing the top franchises in specific sectors.
About Pizza Factory
Founded 35 years ago, Pizza Factory has become well known for serving fresh, high-quality pizza, sandwiches, salads and more. The brand is also widely recognized for its close community connection, which includes its iconic “No Bully Zone” program and impactful fundraising partnerships.
Currently, there are more than 100 locations based in states throughout the West Coast. Pizza Factory looks to add additional franchise locations in key markets throughout the country.
Pizza Factory CEO Response to COVID-19
Dear Valued Customers,
It is very important to us to let you know that we are taking proactive measures to keep people safe, from our local store owners, operators and employees, to the guests that dine with us. Rest assured that we are following guidelines from the CDC, WHO and local public health department officials.
Our restaurants have increased our current cleaning and sanitizing procedures to help prevent the spread of all germs and maintain a healthy environment for our guests and team members. We’ve instructed anyone who is feeling sick to stay home and monitor their symptoms. All franchise restaurants have been educated on recommended actions to take if their community, or someone from their restaurant, is affected by the virus.
As more information continues to become available, our restaurants may implement additional pre-cautionary measures to protect customer and employee well-being. Each local restaurant operator will communicate any changes within their restaurant.
Thank you for your understanding as we respond to this dynamic situation while keeping our focus on the health of our guests and team members. We appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve our communities in accordance with our mission of being everyone’s hometown pizzeria.
Mary Jane Riva,
CEO, Pizza Factory
The Future of Pizza
PMQ Magazine interviewed leading pizza restaurant executives on future trends in the industry for their October 2020 issue.
“Mary Jane Riva, president and CEO of Oakhurst, California based Pizza Factory, said she’s “intrigued” by the ghost-kitchen concept. “Its a great way to complement an existing location by being able to expand your presence in the market with a much lower overhead, such as in an industrial type of location. This is on our radar, but we still tend to favor the takeout and delivery model in a neighborhood center and a strip mall”. Because, she continued, “People need interaction, and this will not go away – and thank goodness. What a world this would be without it!”