Retaining fan favorites while updating the menu will be key to helping franchisees boost profitability
DePauw University graduate Andy Dismore had a legal career all planned out when something unexpected happened.
“I was on my way to law school when I fell into food,” says Dismore, Marco’s new Director of Culinary Innovation. “I got a job waiting tables and bartending at the Brown Palace Hotel in Denver, and I had never experienced anything like that before in my life. I would go back to my microscopic apartment and my crappy two-burner electric range and check out cookbooks from the library, and I started cooking. I abandoned the idea of law school. I went to culinary school instead.”
These days, the former executive chef of Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago — who once catered some of the world’s largest sporting events, including Indianapolis 500 and Formula 1 races — is centering his energy around updating and innovating the menu at America’s most-loved pizza brand.
A food brand and franchise expert
While Dismore loved the “rarefied air” of the fine dining world, he was missing out on family time. “I missed the first three years of my oldest daughter’s life,” he says.
So he shifted his career in a new direction and started working with major food brands including Subway, Coca-Cola, Pizza Hut, Tyson Foods, Schwan Food Company, Checkers/Rally’s and Denny’s, where his work earned him the MenuMaster Award from Nation’s Restaurant News.
“While a lot of people can cook, not as many have the acumen and the strategic mindset, the marketing mindset and the operational mindset to drive innovation of major food service operations like Marco’s,” Dismore says.
“One best practice at Marco’s that I fully intend to build on is our focus on crafting proprietary, ownable and differentiated products.”
Moving Marco’s forward
With his impressive resume, Dismore could have worked for virtually any brand. Why Marco’s?
“One of the things that drove me to Marco’s is that Marco’s is a perfect size and in a perfect time,” he says. “It has just reached 1,000 units, which means it’s big enough to have a significant impact but small enough to be nimble.”
He’s impressed by Marco’s people-first, consumer-oriented approach to business and will be focusing on what guests are looking for from Marco’s — not just the guests in restaurants today, but those who used to frequent Marco’s and those who’ve never been at all. “We want to continue to benchmark our products not only to the competition, but in the eyes of the consumer.
“We want to take our products, our ingredients, and look at them compared to what our competitors are doing. We want to make sure that we are not only competitive, but also offering the highest possible level of quality. And that it is constantly evolving because the other guys hire smart people, too. It’s a best practice that I want to continue and enhance in our new product development process.”
Listen and learn
Dismore will work closely with Operations and Marketing in his new role, and he’ll be working with top leadership as well as the franchisees and employees on the front lines in restaurants. His top priority in the beginning is to listen and learn.
He’ll be immersing himself in all aspects of the Marco’s product, including suppliers and costs, to look for opportunities to increase franchisee profitability.
“I’m not only listening and learning to the consumer and to our marketing incentives for next year, but I have my ear to the ground with Operations, because if there are product solutions that we’re getting feedback on from the field or from the consumer, we’re going to address those as well,” Dismore says.
He circles back to the crucial idea of interacting with everyone, from top leadership to front-line employees. Some of the best ideas in the food industry — like the Starbucks Frappuccino, for instance — have come from the ranks.
“I want to jumpstart innovation by listening to the team members in the restaurant,” he says. “Because when they’re making something for their lunch or dinner for themselves, I guarantee you they’re not making it to specifications. They’re creating, they’re making their own pizzas. And I bet you some of those pizzas are just fantastic.”
Learn more about Marco’s franchise
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