Meet the MVP who helps franchisees pick ideal locations for franchises

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Joe Stephens pairs data analysis with ground-level observations to help franchisees find great locations.

At Marco’s Pizza’s 2019 franchise convention, area representatives gave Joe Stephens the 2019 Extra Mile Award for his efforts to support franchisees. It was the third time he’s won the “Extra Mile” award, and the name is apt. Joe is a road warrior who pairs data analysis with ground-level observation to help find ideal locations for franchises. Franchisees love him for the effort and insights he brings to the site analysis and selection process.

On-the-ground intelligence

A Google Map image shows a Marco’s Pizza location across the street from a large high school and very close to a neighborhood full of cul-de-sacs.
An example of an ideal Marco’s Pizza location. This one in the Nashville metro area is on a busy road near a dense neighborhood and a busy high school.

“I look at hundreds of sites each month,” the Senior Director of Real Estate said. “We use state of the art analytical tools to understand the demographics, competition and density surrounding different neighborhoods, and then I spend a lot of time driving through favorable areas, looking at commercial real estate through the customers’ eyes. Things like ‘How easy is it to turn in and get back out? Is there a traffic light? Are there adequate curb cuts? Is there something special about the building or the way it is situated that makes it stand out?’”

Some signs of good franchise locations are obvious. End caps are always desirable, and good signage is a must. But to hear Joe describe it, prime real estate has its own aura as you are driving down the road. Sometimes it’s positioned on a bend of a busy stretch of road, practically sitting on its own island as commuters drive by. Or it could be a freestanding building that sits right at a traffic light near a high school, where teenagers line up in their cars at the end of the school day.

As he tours the country, Joe also evaluates neighborhoods to get a feel for the community and whether it looks like a community that will eagerly support Marco’s Pizza. “I want to see basketball posts and swing sets — things that indicate that there are kids and disposable income.”

A wooden playground set with a toddler swing and two regular swings, a climbing board, and steps that lead to a roof-covered area that leads to a yellow plastic undulating slide.
Backyard playgrounds are a strong indicator of a pizza-eating neighborhood.

In-depth data tools to guide efforts and confirm observations

Joe’s on-the-ground explorations are guided by extensive data analysis. He spends his time studying neighborhoods that have potential for growth and expansion.

Marco’s uses databases and mapping tools to identify prime locations for franchises. Our data is able to drill deep. In addition to understanding the population surrounding a potential location, we can also get insights into the makeup of households, the average number of kids per home, and the age range of the household members. School-aged kids are a great indicator of a pizza-eating household. Areas dominated with young families are ideal for Marco’s because they are our target demographic and most enthusiastic pizza eaters.

As we work with franchisees to hone in on specific locations, we’re also able to see where churches, schools, and competitors are located.

“We try to put the franchisee in the best possible position to win customers,” Joe says. “Then they win customers over by providing the best pizza and the best service.” 

Learn more

To learn more about location selection and the many other ways Marco’s supports franchisees, fill out the form below. You’ll receive immediate access to our free franchise report and we’ll be in touch to answer your questions.


If you’re dreaming of owning a pizza franchise, or even several at once, Marco’s may be the perfect place for you to thrive.

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