Marco’s is accelerating its multi-unit pizza empire | Global Franchise
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Marco’s is accelerating its multi-unit pizza empire

North America

Marco’s is accelerating its multi-unit pizza empire

Number five pizza brand set to reach $1bn in annual systemwide sales in 2022

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Marco’s Pizza is a brand on the rise. At nearly 1,100 stores and counting, it is America’s number five pizza brand based on systemwide sales, with its sights set on becoming number four. As the brand approaches $1bn in annual systemwide sales, current franchisees are doubling down on expansion and riding the wave of the brand’s explosive, record-breaking sales growth by expanding and growing their sales territories.

Marco’s experienced a 12.8 per cent increase in year-over-year average unit volume (AUV), and according to its latest franchise disclosure document, the top 50 per cent of Marco’s franchised stores generated $1,198,201 AUV for 2021.*

In 33 states and expanding rapidly, the fast-growing pizza franchise is known for its quality product, proven business model, a national TV advertising presence, and commitment to technology and innovation that is driving brand growth.

With available whitespace and incentives for multi-unit operators, Marco’s is on the fast-track to achieving its growth goal of 1,500 stores open and operating by the end of 2023.

Former Wall Street investor goes all-in on Marco’s

Behind Marco’s soon-to-open milestone 1,100th store is Kal Gullapalli, a multibrand, multi-unit franchisee, who joined the Marco’s brand in 2021 with a desire to diversify his portfolio amid the ongoing pandemic.

After seven years on Wall Street, Gullapalli transitioned to entrepreneurship opening butcher, burger, and pizza shops before entering the world of franchising in 2016. Gullapalli is now a veteran in the franchise industry, owning several fitness locations and health and wellness retail centers.

When the pandemic started, the nonfood service industry completely shut down. This jarring realization triggered him to begin looking at the franchise brands thriving. This led him to Marco’s Pizza which was experiencing double-digit, record-breaking sales growth.

Gullapalli currently has 29 Marco’s stores in his portfolio with eight more in various stages of development and commitments for another 16 stores across Tampa, FL and Myrtle Beach, SC, furthering his vision for a desired 100-plus store portfolio by 2025.

“When I was working at a pizza shop in high school, I would always look around and say to myself, ‘Why can’t I own 100?’ I’ve seen my franchisee peers grow to 100- plus over time and knew it was doable. With Marco’s, there’s a clear path to my team owning 100-plus locations,” said Gullapalli.

He added, “The brand has tremendous whitespace and a superior product. It’s an honor to be able to open the milestone 1,100th store. As we get into 2023 and 2024, 1,100 will seem like a small blip, because Marco’s will be at 3,000 in no time – we’re on the fast-track to growth!”

Multi-unit empire builders

Multi-unit growth continues to play a strategic role in the brand’s rapid expansion. Nearly half of its current franchise network is made up of multi-unit operators. Marco’s is seeing increasing interest from those looking to diversify their portfolios while also expanding with existing franchisees.

Recently, Marco’s announced one of the largest franchisee deals in brand history with 11-year Marco’s area representative and franchisee Robert Pina, which will bring 46 stores to Phoenix.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been on a phenomenal growth curve,” said Pina. “With the right concept, a proven track record, and national advertising helping grow brand awareness, now is the time to commit to accelerated development.”

Another standout multi-unit franchisee growing her Marco’s portfolio is Air Force veteran Stephanie Moseley, who was just named an International Franchise Association Franchisee of the Year. With four open locations and more in development, Moseley is well on her way to owning a desired 10 stores and growing her pizza empire.

“With the support and guidance of the Marco’s development team, my latest opening holds a special place in my heart. The unique location provides Marco’s as a meal option on the Newport News Shipbuilding campus,” said Moseley. “This has presented me an opportunity to get back to my roots and service the military in a new way. It’s been a remarkable journey and I continue to look forward to an even brighter future with Marco’s.”

A secret recipe: High-quality product plus an experienced, supportive franchisor

At the crux of Marco’s ongoing growth is its renowned product, its high-quality pizza known for its dough made from scratch for a craveable golden crust, freshly mixed herbs and spices for a sauce worth savoring, and three fresh signature cheeses for a perfect, melty bite.

The mouth-watering menu features a mix of classic and original specialty pizzas loaded with fresh toppings, including the Pepperoni Magnifico, Deluxe, All Meat, or Build-Your-Own Pizza, plus a variety of its signature and Build-Your-Own Pizza Bowls, a crustless pizza baked in a bowl.

Marco’s superior product, paired with a proven business model and an executive leadership team that packs more than 200 years of collective experience in the restaurant industry, some of whom own franchises themselves, allows the brand to stay on its path of sustained excellence.

Marco’s Franchising prioritizes investments in new technology, personnel, strategic vendor partnerships, and more to ensure it is providing support to its franchisees with an eye towards maximizing profits.

For example, Marco’s recently announced the investment of millions of dollars in technology innovations over the next few years designed to create business efficiencies, maximize order growth, and improve the customer experience.

Areas of investment include A.I.-enabled voice-to-text ordering and automated promise times, integration with thirdparty delivery services, testing automated kitchen innovations and new operational equipment, plus migrating to a 100 per cent cloud-based order management system.

In addition to innovation, Marco’s runs a multi-channel national marketing and advertising program while highlighting its quality product and value offerings. The brand’s creative platform centers on the tagline, “Pizza Lovers Get It.”

“Having a superior pizza product gives you the basic foundation you need to scale,” said Tony Libardi, co-CEO and president. “From there, our team continues to produce the best-in-class tools to support our franchisees. Simply put, our executive leadership team is world-class. With combined knowledge and years of experience, we’ve built an incredible infrastructure for growth and by partnering with like-minded franchisees who see the strength in the brand, we become an unstoppable force.”

Brand culture designed around people first and hospitality always

Marco’s leans heavily on its cultural beliefs to unify its franchise system and inspire accountability and innovation. Topping the list is Marco’s people-first approach to business and a promise of hospitality always – designed to ensure a superior guest experience, every time.

While tech and innovation reign supreme in the pandemic-era, Marco’s credits its success to its people and the way franchisees further engrain themselves in community. Brand health is reliant on community – which makes community giveback part of Marco’s DNA.

“Our franchise partners take great pride in knowing their business is truly impacting the community,” said Steve Seyferth, SVP and chief experience officer. “It’s been remarkable to see them taking action – whether it be delivering complimentary meals to first responders, serving those impacted by natural disasters, donating to local schools and more, our communities know they can count on Marco’s Pizza.”

Beyond Marco’s franchisees stepping up to support communities, Marco’s has established its own program, Slice of Support, to help franchisees and team members experiencing a catastrophic event. Slice of Support has helped many employees pay for funeral expenses, aid in recovery from a hurricane, or provide support needed during a life-threatening illness to help reduce the financial stress and burdens that come with these tragedies.

Future: Road to pizza royalty

With more than 200 stores in development, Marco’s is experiencing explosive growth with a goal to be 2,000 stores strong by the end of 2026. It is because of Marco’s current franchisees and team members, commitment to quality and customer experience, solid cultural beliefs, and strong performance that will make this attainable. “You can see growth is accelerating,” said Libardi. “We’re a 40-plus year-old brand that operates with a startup mentality. As we’ve continued to grow our footprint, we’ve never lost sight of the importance of the quality, innovation, and support that our franchisees and guests have come to expect. We’ve invested resources and capital to prepare for the future, take big risks, and continue to shape the industry. As we do so, we are committed to upholding our position as a leader in franchisee support, guest experience, and community goodwill.”

*Based on the average unit volume of the top 50 per cent of our franchised stores for fiscal year 2021. Based on fiscal year 2021, 146 of 389 franchised stores in the category (38 per cent) met or exceeded this average. This information appears in Item 19 of our 2022 FDD – please refer to our FDD for complete information on financial performance. Results may differ. There is no assurance that any franchisee will perform as well.

At a Glance Marco’s Franchising, LLC

Established: 1978
Number of franchised outlets: Nearly 1,100 locations
Location of units: 33 states plus Puerto Rico and the Bahamas
Investment range: Start-up costs between $242,142 – $633,109
Minimum required capital: $150,000 liquid capital, $450,000 net worth and a credit score of 680 or more
Top 50 franchisee stores: $1,198,201 AUV for 2021*
Contact: Shannon Iverson, VP of franchise sales development –

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