Interview: Tony Libardi, CEO, Marco’s Pizza | Global Franchise
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Wednesday 7th December, 2022

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Interview: Tony Libardi, CEO, Marco’s Pizza

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Interview: Tony Libardi, CEO, Marco’s Pizza

As the fifth largest American pizza brand has just hit $1bn in sales, CEO Tony Libardi sheds some light on the milestone

How has Marco’s been able to maintain such strong year-on-year sales figures compared to the other major brands?

TL: While the pizza segment saw immense success amid the pandemic era, there’s been more recent fluctuation in up-and-down same-store-sales trends among the industry players.

At Marco’s, we’ve been able to maintain such strong year-on-year sales figures thanks to a combination of motivated franchisees, team members at the store level, a committed support center, and an experienced leadership team.

According to Nation’s Restaurant News Top 500 Report, Marco’s achieved the highest per cent year-over-year sales change (plus 18.2 per cent) when compared to the nation’s top four pizza brands (Domino’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, Papa John’s), making Marco’s the nation’s number five pizza brand in systemwide sales.

This analysis confirms Marco’s IS the fastest-growing pizza brand based on year-over-year unit growth, average unit volume as well as new units.

We’ve been focused on building strong and consistent operating fundamentals and pursuing growth opportunities that are practical and profitable, all while never compromising on quality.

How has Marco’s tackled labor issues, and what support do you provide to your franchisees?

TL: Marco’s has helped franchisees navigate the nationwide labor shortage by providing insights and expertise to boost employee recruitment, retention, and engagement via our ‘Passion for Primo’ initiative.

While tech and innovation reign supreme in today’s era, we’re a people-first organization – meaning we invest in our team members and never lose sight of human connection, emotion, and empathy as it relates to the guest experience.

We provide training and support for personal and professional growth as team members make an impact in their community. Our people-first approach ensures team members are respected, supported, and empowered – and guests get a great experience.

Whether it be labor challenges, supply chain issues, rising inflation, and more, we support our franchisees every step of the way. Our executive leadership team packs more than 200 years of collective experience in the restaurant industry, some of whom own franchises themselves, providing our franchisees assurance in navigating economic challenges.

Which areas in the U.S. is the brand particularly looking at growing into?

TL: Currently Marco’s has more than 225 stores in various stages of development with more than 350 agreements signed. We expect strong penetration in all areas of the U.S., particularly growing deeper into Southeast and Southwest regions, with plans to further expand outside of the U.S. in 2023.

How have your technological innovations helped improve efficiency in your stores?

TL: We 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.

We’ve migrated to a 100 per cent cloud-based order management system which also supports payment process and the point-of-sale system. It also has integrated conversational ordering, labor scheduling, inventory management and a cloud-based reporting dashboard with centralized data management capabilities. By housing its own data, the system can enable all sorts of applications today and in the future.

In addition to digital wallet payment technology, we’ve invested in utilizing artificial intelligence for text-to-voice ordering and generating automated promise times. We’ve also tested new operational equipment to improve efficiencies in the kitchen.

We’ve helped to drive unit profitability by rapidly adopting third-party delivery where we’ve seen triple-digit growth.

With new digital capabilities driving growth, Marco’s is equipped with a roadmap to challenge the competition, fueling our long-term strong growth and performance.

What separates Marco’s from the other large pizza brands?

TL: It all comes down to people and product. At the crux of Marco’s ongoing success is our renowned product. Having a superior product gives you the foundation you need to scale. Pair this with a proven business model, best-in-class tools to support franchisees, and a world-class executive leadership team, and we’ve built an incredible infrastructure, making Marco’s an unstoppable force in the industry.

We’re also committed to being an industry leader and innovator when it comes to delivering new flavor profiles that meet consumer needs. Adapting to consumer trends is part of our DNA and whether it be our line of pizza bowls or cauliflower crust, we aim to bring bold and refreshing moves to the pizza category.

For example, Marco’s became the first national pizza delivery brand to offer crustless pizza. The Marco’s Pizza specialty bowl line and build-your-own pizza bowl allows consumers to enjoy our delicious pizza while following a higher-protein, lower-carb diet. Most recently, Marco’s announced a cauliflower crust option, making it the first national QSR pizza brand to offer this choice as part of its standard menu offering. The gluten-friendly alternative is a health-conscious option packed with flavor and the bonus of the superfood veggie cauliflower.

“Our people-first approach ensures team members are respected, supported, and empowered – and guests get a great experience”

Our people-first culture is another key differentiator. We are striving to be the pizza brand that connects with customers at the human level. We’ve grown from humble beginnings as a small, regional concept to a nationally accredited brand, and as we continue to expand our footprint, we will never lose sight of those neighborhoods that have made Marco’s their pizza of choice.

To commemorate our $1bn annual systemwide sales achievement, we’re launching the Marco’s Pizza Foundation as an extension of our mission to empower franchisees and team members to make a positive difference in their communities.

The new effort marks a deeper commitment to unification across Marco’s as it brings our brand, franchisees, and the communities we serve closer together under one common cause. The Foundation will support four key pillars: school and education, hunger prevention and nutrition, workforce development, and entrepreneurship.

At Marco’s, we lean heavily on our cultural beliefs to unify our franchise system and inspire accountability and innovation. Brand health is reliant on community – which makes community giveback part of Marco’s DNA.

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