Traveling businessman settles in a new hometown with a Marco’s Pizza ® franchise
Jack Ziegler spent years traveling around the country working on stage curtains in theatres and sports arenas before he decided to open up his own Marco’s franchise. For the 49-year-old, Marco’s seemed like a sure bet. The Marco’s Pizza ® in his former hometown of Tiffin, Ohio, just south of the Marco’s headquarters in Toledo, had been around for more than 25 years, and it was thriving in spite of a spate of local pizzerias in town. When Jack and his wife moved to the Tucson, Ariz., suburb of Oro Valley 12 years ago, he had grown tired of traveling so often for his job. Four years ago he changed all that when he opened his first Marco’s Pizza ® franchise.
What were you doing before Marco’s?
I moved to Arizona for the weather, basically, but I still worked all over the country — Ohio, the Midwest, Florida, California — for a construction company based out of Tiffin, Ohio. I worked in theaters and professional arenas. I worked for a rigging contractor where I did stage curtains in high school theatres, college theatres, hockey arenas, basketball arenas. If you’ve ever been to a high school play or a stage, all the stuff that holds up the lighting, the curtains — that’s what I did. I was a superintendent, I was the boss, and I would fly or drive to a venue and then have local stage hands work for me. I had a Marco’s in my hometown that’s been there for 25-plus years, and it is a small community with a lot of local pizza places, also. And my thought was, if that could survive in an environment like that with a lot of local pizza places, and here we only have basically Papa John’s, Domino’s and Pizza Hut, we needed a good pizza place here. We basically were underserved when I opened my place.
How long have you been a franchisee?
We started the business five years ago but didn’t open the business until four years ago.
Do you own one unit or several? Why?
The one is all I own right now at this point. I just wasn’t quite ready yet. I’m being conservative, kind of. I’m looking for other people to invest and get involved. I’m comfortable where I’m at right now, and sometimes you get into a comfort zone and you get to the point like, ‘OK, let’s go to the next level.’ I’m going to look for other investors and get other people involved.
Did you have food or retail experience before owning the franchise?
I grew up in small food service with my family as a young kid. They sold concessions. From the time I was 6 years old until I was probably 40 years old, my parents were involved with some sort of concessions. The pizza business is totally different than anything I’ve ever been in, but I’ve worked in restaurants and bars a little bit over the years.
How important is that?
As far as dealing with people, customer service — that experience of working with my family helped me a lot. As a kid growing up, my whole childhood in the summertime I worked at a baseball park or a swimming pool selling candy and sandwiches and chips to people. It’s completely different than being in the pizza business, but it’s that same principle.
What do you like about the job?
I like being self-employed, and it’s rewarding to have people happy with your product, and I have about 19 employees that depend on me. It’s nice to be successful.
What sets Marco’s apart?
Our friendliness when you walk in the door. We greet people when they come in. And our product is far superior. We make our own dough here in the store. We use a very high quality cheese. Our sauce, meat products are real high quality. It’s hard for us to compete with some people on the price, but my theory is quality is your best price.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Marco’s?
I guess it’s as large as you want it to be… I think the sky’s the limit right now. There are a lot of openings out there.
Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers?
I would say families, but this is kind of a retirement community. We have a lot of golf and we have a lot of snowbirds here, and when snowbirds are together, older people are together, they try to be young. So we get a lot of older people in groups that like pizza. Back when I was doing research, they were saying a household over 65 wasn’t counted as pizza eaters. That’s not real true here. We’re converting older people here to be pizza eaters. We still have a lot of families here. We have two high schools in our delivery area and three elementary schools that are in our area, so there are a fair amount of kids here.
What attracts customers to Marco’s rather than its competitors?
I think quality of product and service. My store was No. 1 in the last two years in delivery out-the-door times in the whole Marco’s system. A lot of our out-the-door times, we’re walking out the door with pizza for delivery in 10 minutes, and people are getting it in 15 to 20 minutes at their house. But I still think quality is more important than fast service.
How many customers do you typically serve in a day?
Fridays and Saturdays are our two busiest days. Friday is almost always our busiest day. Last Friday night we had 158 tickets and we did 231 pizzas last Friday night. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are typically slower. Last Monday we did 84 pizzas and we had 61 guests. About 85% of our business usually comes from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. We’re a very bedroom community here. After 9 o’clock, we pretty much die.
What does your typical day look like?
The first year-and-a-half to two years I worked my tail off. But I chose to self-manage my store. So I self-managed my store. So I closed my store every night for probably that first year-and-a-half to two years, seven days a week. And then I would be in here to open. We start at 10 o’clock every day. I would probably be here from 10 till 1:30 or 2 o’clock, go home, eat lunch, maybe take a nap, come back about 4 o’clock and then stay here until 10, 10:30, 11. That was the first two years. Now I have people that can kind of cover. And we’re working on having managers here, shift leaders… because I want to move on and maybe open up another one or do something. Right now, I still work seven days a week. I probably get here at 9:30 or 10 every day and I’m walking out the door about 11, 11:30, come back at 3 Monday through Thursday and then I’m out of here at 5 and then I’m done for the day. And then Friday and Saturday nights I’m usually here till about 8. So that’s my typical day, and I’m backing down my hours more and more. I chose to self-manage my store. Most people have managers they hire.
What is a secret to your success?
With all the hours that I’ve spent in here, dealing with all the customers, it’s almost like being a politician. You have a lot of good response and then you get some bad response, and you’ve got to just deal with it like a politician. You have to understand you can’t please everybody, and you can’t take it personally. The first year I was open, someone would make a comment or complain or whatever, and I would sometimes take it personally. You’ve got to learn not to do that. You’re serving thousands of customers, and not everyone’s going to be happy. I have a lot of positive feedback, and that keeps you going.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Marco’s franchise?
I’m not sure. It’s not an easy road to go down, but I’m sure glad I did it. It’s a lot of work, just learning. The training that Marco’s puts you through — that’s pretty intense. And I’m glad I had it, because it made me a much, much better franchisee.
What are some of the personal benefits of franchise ownership?
Well, I’m hoping that in a few years that I can just stand back and have people running the store where I can go back to skiing and enjoying myself and doing some other things.
Would you recommend a Marco’s franchise to someone else? Why?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I think it’s a great opportunity. I like the whole concept of how we do things. The most important thing I think is picking out a great location.