A conversation with Marco’s Pizza® President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Libardi
With time-tested quality and a fresh marketing message, our brand is poised for further growth
Marco’s Pizza is dedicated to quality pizza, sales growth and franchisee satisfaction. After decades of experience in the restaurant industry with brands like Burger King and Friendly’s, Marco’s Pizza President and Chief Operating Officer Tony Libardi has the knowledge and experience to continue our brand’s rapid growth. Learn why he thinks the Marco’s Pizza opportunity is only getting stronger for entrepreneurs.
What are your goals for the brand?
We’ve really focused on three key pillars. We aim to be the employer of choice, the franchise partner of choice and the pizza of choice. And while that may sound a bit lofty, when you think of it in terms of our strategy, we recognize that while we sell pizza, we’re really in the people business.
I tell new franchisees all the time that, yes, you have to get the pizza right for sure. You have to create the right experience for guests, but first and foremost, you’ve got to make sure that you’re building incredible teams. Getting all of that right ultimately maximizes the return on investment for our franchisees.
And of course, a key focus for us is generating profitability at the store level, and keeping a keen eye on franchisee profitability. We see that as a growth mechanism, but we also see that as an obligation. Being partners of choice means assisting our franchisees in achieving a solid ROI.
To become the franchisor of choice for franchisees, we measure that by one key metric. That is, would you recommend Marcos as a place to build or open a store? We want to be known as the place where you can grow a solid business for yourself.
How do you plan to accelerate the unit and sales growth of Marcos?
We have three key objectives to grow for the future: unit growth, sales growth and assisting our franchisees with profitability. We’ve got a couple of key strategies in place to achieve that. We’ve been working diligently to create a new online experience for our guests, recognizing that that’s a huge opportunity for us, and that included completely rebuilding our Marcos.com landing page platform and mobile app experience.
We’ve also rebranded our company. Our marketing strategy for 2018 is dramatically different than anything we’ve done in the past. We’re going to hyper-focus on our quality message and our 40 years of experience building pizzas with the authentic Italian touch.
We are already seeing year-over-year same-store sales growth since we’ve been testing these messages. In areas where we have already deployed elements of it, it’s working beautifully.
Our new store design is a part of that as well. We embarked on this journey about three years ago, and we really started to think about “What does a dining room do for us? Can we put people in the seats? And when we do that, what do people want to experience when they come to a brand?”
And so we landed on what we call our Milan design, which has a more modern feel to it. It’s more in tune with today’s design preferences by consumers. We also added a food theater by creating windows into our kitchens, with tables that get full-access views of our kitchen to watch pizzas being made and dough being rolled. Kids especially love it. We make such a great pizza, we want folks to watch it happen.
It also gives us other avenues for revenue, by helping us add more dine-in sales in addition to our delivery and carryout business. In some locations, we’ve added beer and wine. We’ve paid a lot of attention to the little details, because we want to ensure that the guest has an outstanding visit every time they come to a Marco’s Pizza. We want them to have that primo experience.
What message do you want to convey with the new branding and marketing campaigns?
Our new slogan is called “Hello Primo.” We are officially the only authentic Italian pizza out there among the top 10 chains. Our founder, Pat Giammarco, immigrated from Italy, and he mastered the art of pizza making. That really gives us the benefit of having the best pizza in the business from our perspective, and our consumers agree with us.
When you think about Italian goods and services, you think of things like Ferrari and Armani. Italians tend to toil over the details. Pat Giammarco is a detail-oriented fellow. He is an artist when it comes to making pizza. Over the years he has perfected it and we want to tell that story, because what we do, we don’t think anybody can compete with it.
As a veteran yourself, how does the company’s focus on veteran recruitment help your franchise community?
It has been a top focus, and it will continue to be a top focus, because it’s extremely important that we create opportunities for the men and women who’ve put everything on the line for us and our country. I don’t think we can do enough to help support our veterans, show our appreciation and give back to them and their families. It’s important to me personally; to Jack Butorac, our CEO; and to our entire organization.
Some of our most successful franchisees are still in the military or are veterans of the military, and we’re thrilled to have them. They’re great, natural leaders, so they step right in and they do very well.
As we’re approaching the 40th anniversary of Marco’s Pizza, what do you see for the future of the brand?
It’s hard to believe that a company that’s considered to be one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. today is 40 years old, right? It’s a very unique place to be. We’re excited about it. We’re celebrating the opening of our 900th store, and our objective is to be the fourth-largest pizza chain within the next decade. That means we have to accelerate our growth beyond what our competitors are doing. There is no shortage of folks that want to join our team. We expect to open another 120-plus stores this year.