Franchisee Angelo Ialacci has watched family, Marco’s Pizza franchises grow up together
Time flies when you have many to care for, whether you’re managing a handful of businesses or a full household. Angelo Ialacci’s first daughter was just 2 months old when he worked with his cousin, Marco’s founder Pat Giammarco, to open opened his first Marco’s Pizza franchise more than two decades ago. Now, his three daughters are in their twenties, and he has six well-established franchises throughout southeastern Michigan. Living just 60 miles from the store that’s farthest away from his home, Angelo finds his half-dozen stores quite manageable with the help of his wife, Karen, who takes care of some of the administrative tasks to keep his business humming. Angelo sometimes wonders where the time has gone — but he has enjoyed every minute of it.
We caught up with him so he could share his story with others.
How long have you been a Marco’s Pizza owner, and how many do you own?
I opened my first store in 1988, and now I have six stores that are all in southeast Michigan.
What were you doing before you became a Marco’s franchise owner?
I was an engineer at General Motors.
How did you go from working at an auto plant to making the leap to restaurants?
My first job was at McDonald’s, so it was kind of a leap back to food. I’ve always enjoyed food. After working as a manager at McDonald’s, I went to school and got my degree in mechanical engineering and then went to GM. In the 1980s, the same thing that was happening a few years ago was happening then. The company was about to do massive layoffs, and I assumed I would be one of them. So before that could happen, I decided to take my destiny into my own hands and return to food.
How did you come across Marco’s as an option?
The founder of Marco’s is a relative. At a family function, I asked him if he was thinking of expanding the concept out of Ohio into Michigan, and fortunately he was. I ended up opening the first store in Michigan.
Is six the right number of stores for you?
I don’t have a number in my head. It’s more about geography. I don’t want to spread myself too thin. I don’t want to go 150 miles for a store.
What do you like about your job?
To be honest with you, I don’t even consider it a job. It becomes a way of life. I have the freedom to control what I do on a daily basis. There are times when the business dictates what you’re doing, but I basically do dictate my own day.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually review yesterday’s business when I get up to see if there are any issues before I leave the house. Then I make my way to my office, where I have a secretary and where my wife handles payroll. As you get bigger, there’s more administrative work to be done that takes up more of your day. If something is going on at one of the stores at lunchtime, then I’ll switch my day around, but I usually go to the office first and then head out to a store. And I get home later in the evening.
Who are your competitors? Have they changed over the years?
Our competitors would be anywhere from Little Caesars to Domino’s to Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, and any local or regional operations that may be in the area. They have all changed over the years in terms of how they position themselves and what they emphasize — whether it’s the product they serve or the service or a specialty item.
What sets Marco’s apart from those competitors?
Marco’s Pizza is positioned as the authentic choice. We’re the only pizza chain where the founder is actually from Italy. We have excellent ingredients, we make our dough fresh every day, our sauce is fresh every day, and we cut our own vegetables. It’s kind of an Old World process of making pizza.
Why do you think customers go to your restaurant over others?
We push and stress product, service and image, or what we call PSI. We believe that if we do the product right and our ingredients are the best, and that if we have the product, the service and the image, along with an excellent marketing program, then customers will come through the door.
What are your customers like?
Our clientele generally falls in the 18- to 55-year-old range. We get a full spectrum of people in terms of household income. In today’s day and age, families have such limited time that Marco’s becomes a regular option for fulfilling their dinner or lunch needs or their party needs.
How many customers do you typically serve in one of your stores?
It depends. Whether it’s Monday or Friday, you can do anywhere between 100 and 300 customers.
What has been the secret to your success?
My dedication to the product, service and image. I am dedicated to holding what was established by the founder in terms of the product, in how to care and prepare for it. The foundation is there; it’s up to the franchisees to execute what has already been established and built.
Would you recommend owning a Marco’s franchise?
You have to be self-motivated. If you are the type of person who has to be told what you’re doing next all the time, this would not be a fit. It’s too easy to say, “Well, I’ll do it tomorrow.” But the buck stops with you and you need to get it done, whether it takes eight hours or 16 hours. Sometimes your best laid plans for a weekend could fall apart, say, if there’s a snow storm. Anytime you have inclement weather, you need to make adjustments.
How do you handle bad weather?
We stay open even if there’s several inches of snow, but if there’s a declaration of an emergency where no one should be on the roads, then we’ll shut down, since no one will be able to deliver pizza. I’ll stay in contact with the stores and we’ll make the call. You don’t want to put a delivery driver or anyone in potential harm’s way.
What are the personal benefits to franchise ownership?
You get to own your own business — that’s the American dream. I also enjoy the rush of taking care of customers and the interaction with the community.
What’s your favorite Marco’s pizza topping?
I like the ground beef.
Are you ready to open your own Marco’s Pizza franchise?
Marco’s has 400-plus units across the United States, and we plan to hit the 500-store mark by mid-2014. We have another 1,000 stores in development. There’s never been a better time for the new or experienced investor to join a proven concept.
If you’d like to get in on the ground floor of our dynamic and growing company, please fill out the form at right or give us a call at 1-800-262-7267 to start a conversation — and go ahead and check out our Facebook page and Twitter while you’re at it!