Hard work and a dream culminate in pizza franchise success
DJ Patel’s life in India was quite comfortable, yet a strong voice inside told him that if he didn’t emigrate to the United States he might miss out on the very best that life has to offer. The culmination of his dreams would blossom more than two decades later under the Marco’s Pizza franchise brand. Patel, 48, moved to the U.S. in the late 1980s and quickly found that the pizza industry was a good place to develop his skills, expertise and knowledge. But it wasn’t until he joined the Marco’s Pizza family that he succeeded in reaching his ultimate goal — being a proven leader in his own community. Patel is not content to be a multiple franchise owner; he wants to help others realize the same dream. In a few short years, he’s stacked up a track record of helping others succeed in becoming Marco’s Pizza franchise owners. Many — but by no means all — are fellow South Asian immigrants, who look up to Patel as a trailblazer and role model. Patel relishes the role. “I put on my different hats to help others succeed,” he says. ”I can be mentor, father, friend, coach, teacher and brother. One thing’s for sure through it all. I really care about the franchisees.”
What were you doing before Marco’s? Why did you want to own a franchise? I was with Pizza Hut for 23 years and then with Starbucks for two years. I worked at the corporate level as a restaurant readiness coach and concept developer.
Why did you make the switch to Marco’s Pizza? I wanted to finish up my life on my own terms. I wanted to stay in an industry where I could use my experience and expertise, but I also wanted to explore and succeed on the entrepreneurial side of life. I chose Marco’s for two reasons. No. 1: It’s definitely a great product. The second reason is that Marco’s has a fantastic leadership team. Marco’s has outstanding training and support when we need it.
When I started with Marco’s I already knew corporate culture and the pizza industry. I saw that Marco’s Pizza gave me the opportunity to take the best of what I already knew to the next level. I have been able to lead other franchisees by example. For instance, I have different kinds of stores, one that’s only pick-up; another one with carry-out and delivery and still another with carry-out, delivery and some dining. I have two restaurants that have “green” technology. As you can see, I have been able to provide several different options.
Marco’s gives me the opportunity to show franchisees what’s possible. It’s a lot easier for me to convince somebody to do what I’m doing if I’ve hit a home run with it. I have multiple examples of success now. I have been very successful not only finding but developing franchisees and in helping single franchise owners grow into multiple franchise owners.
How did you do your research? I looked into a lot of different franchise choices. I had a lot of background in the pizza industry, so I did want to stay in this same field. When I did all my research, Marco’ Pizza always came out No. 1. I was already comfortable with the pizza industry — and good at it. But with Marco’s, I knew I could make a big difference. Not only for myself but for a lot of other people who want to control their own futures.
How long have you been a franchisee? I bought my first Marco’s Pizza restaurant in 2011.
Do you own one unit or several? Why? I own six restaurants personally. As an area representative, I have 10-14 franchisees under me and more than 10 franchisees in the line ready to open more restaurants. All of the restaurants are in Georgia.
Did you have food or retail experience before owning the franchise? How important is that? It’s important, but you don’t have to have it with me. I can help develop people into franchise owners because of my experience and vision. Like in any other industry, if you have experience it’s 1-2-3 and you have it. It just takes a little longer for someone with no experience. I have a process in place that helps a franchisee develop and get to the next level. We have a training manager in place, and we have two training stores in our region. We also have a development plan for our junior managers.
What do you like best about the job? I am able to have an impact. I can develop not just a future for myself but for a lot of other people. I don’t mean only business success, but success in community life, in one’s personal life. I believe a successful person finds balance in all these areas. I am able to be in this kind of position in my role with Marco’s.
What sets Marco’s apart? Two major things. Marco’s definitely has a solid leadership team. Most companies, you have a leadership team of corporate people, but with Marco’s it’s different. About 80-85% of the leadership team is either franchisees or area representatives. That makes a huge difference. The second difference is an excellent product. It’s always fresh.
Actually, there’s a third thing. The Marco’s concept has proven successful, even during the toughest economic time in this country. Very few brands were able to sustain their growth during the downturn, but Marco’s did and continues to do so. I could have bought a Pizza Hut or Papa John’s, but I had the vision to see that with an already developed brand you can only go so far.
When I started in 2011, I already knew corporate culture. I and worked for Pizza Hut and Starbucks. I saw that Marco’s Pizza gave me the opportunity to take the best of my experience to the next level. I have been able to lead other franchisees by example.
Marco’s has given me the opportunity to take the best of my own experience and use it to take the brand forward.
How large is the opportunity to grow with Marco’s? There is plenty of room to grow. Not only in Georgia, but all over the U.S. Marco’s isn’t known in every single household, and that presents an opportunity.
Who are your main customers? Who are your best customers? Our best customers are local families here in Georgia. We are so very proud of being family-oriented. We also have groups and organizations coming in to the restaurants all the time. We are major supporters of local schools, churches, non-profit organizations and small businesses.
What attracts to Marco’s rather than competitors?
Environment and inside look is No. 1 in our restaurants. Our people and customer service is definitely a huge attraction for our customers. We take time to develop and train our people, keeping customers in mind.
How many customers do you typically serve in a day?
My restaurants attract 100-200 customers a day.
What does your typical day look like? Walk me through it from the time you get up and into the store and through the end of the day when you’re ready to head home. My typical day starts with looking at last night’s results, not only at my restaurants, but my whole entire region. Then, I plan ahead of time what I need to accomplish and achieve. I’m also responsible for future development, for supporting franchisees and for making Marco’s the No. 1 brand. My day is 12-14 hours a day. Even when I’m home, I’m working. At the same time, I do take time off for family. I do make a priority for my wife and daughter. My wife is my backbone. I couldn’t do it without her. She’s my business partner. She does a lot of bookkeeping and accounting for me.
What is a secret to your success? My wife, family and my passion are my secrets; it’s as simple as that. I can’t be successful if I don’t have my wife behind me 100%. She does it with a smile and never complains.
What kind of person do you think would enjoy owning a Marco’s franchise? Being independent, hard-working and goal-oriented helps. You need to have a desire to really do something with your life. Anyone can own a business, but to really fly with it, you have to have a passion for it. If definitely helps to have open mind and be willing to make changes. Maybe one of the biggest things is having the desire to make a difference.
What are some of the personal benefits of franchise ownership? Your personal growth! It’s very gratifying on many levels to be a part of a good and solid brand you can build your future on. At the same time, you have the enjoyment of being a part of a winning team that you can really care about. I’m blessed not only with my family but with my franchisees. I have a good team behind me. In the end, it’s for the benefit of all, not just me.
Would you recommend a Marco’s franchise to someone else? Why? It’s definitely a better brand with a great future ahead. You will enjoy being part of the Marco’s family. It’s a beautiful thing when you touch people and can help make them successful.