Marco’s Pizza looks to double its store count by 2016

Upscale interior and signature dough help set Marco's apart from the competition.

The fast casual restaurant sector arose as entrepreneurs recognized the growing demand for convenient food options that offered a higher quality meal than quick service fare. This growing market opened the doors for "better burger" joints like Smashburger and Five Guys to enter the fold and recoup significant franchise success. Marco's Pizza, founded in the late '70s and franchised in the mid-2000s, has positioned itself as a "better pizza" parlor and sought to build a loyal client base of picky pizza eaters. Marco's has been a shining example of franchise success, and the brand plans to open its 1,000th store by 2016.

Quality breeds success
By marketing toward the fast casual diner, Marco's was able to gain an edge in the delivery pizza market by dodging the price-point competition. Instead, the franchise focused on delivering a tasty pie with highest quality ingredients available. Notably, each store utilizes dough made in-store with a specially formulated flour. Marco's tomatoes are grown and developed specifically for use in the restaurant's pizza sauce, notes the Marco's Pizza website. To drive the nail home, Marco's cements its better pizza parlor image with a high-scale interior. Franchise standard interiors include cherry wood counter tops, slate or tile floors and faux-granite tables.

The strategy has been successful. A four-month customer service study performed by Procter and Gamble Test Kitchen points out that over 70 percent of customers that sampled Marco's Pizza expressed willingness to try the pie again, according to MarketWired. Customers have rewarded the quality with their dining dollars, and Marco's Pizza has been successful enough to double its number of locations in the past three years. As this trend continues, Marco's Pizza is on track to becoming the fourth-largest pizza franchise in the country.

Expansion initiatives
Marco's opened its 500th store in June 2014, and the business aims to reach 1,000 units within the next two years. The pizza parlor may very well reach its goal, as franchise expansions have rapidly popped up across the nation. Hoping to hit 600 stores by the end of the 2014, Marco's has plans to open 10 new locations in the Central Ohio area alone, says The Columbus Dispatch. One advantage that Marco's Pizza has over established players in the delivery game is space to grow. Competitors like Domino's or Pizza Hut can rarely add 10 new locations to an area without running the risk of cannibalizing business.

In addition, many current franchisees have been able to duplicate the success of their first store with a second location. For example, a local franchisee in Okemos, Michigan is currently opening a second Marco's location in her community. Donna Sturgis introduced the area to Marco's Pizza in 2008 after leaving the mechanical engineering industry, and her new franchise quickly took off. Sturgis noted to Capital Gains Media that her customers are especially fond of the store's classy interiors and "authentic Italian look."