Fifty Years and Fresher than Ever
Birthdays are said to be nature’s way of telling us to eat more cake, yet some celebrations call more for a slice of pizza. In 2014, Boston Pizza will celebrate 50 years of success with a birthday bash planned for franchise partners in Hawaii and opportunities for guests to sample some of the classic menu favorites that helped compel this brand to become one of the leading business models in the franchising industry. The anniversary coincides with launch of a new prototype that will lead locations as they increasingly transition to a new design/décor aesthetic, which just goes to show that despite fifty years of growth and profitability, Boston Pizza continues to focus on keeping things fresh.
Since its humble inception in 1964 as a family-friendly casual dining venue and community sports bar in Edmonton, Alberta, Boston Pizza has grown to become one of the most successful enterprises in the franchising industry. Annually serving more than 40 million guests among its 350 locations, Boston Pizza sales soared above $943 million last year. In addition to being the only franchise that has consistently maintained annual profitability in every province of Canada, the brand has also increasingly blossomed into markets within the United States and Mexico, and to be sure, after 50 years of operations, Boston Pizza is still on-the-go and growing. Boston Pizza’s emergence as a leading franchise originates with a man known as Jim Treliving who formerly served as an officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Treliving, as the story goes, was so enamored with the friendly environment of the early eatery established in Edmonton (all begun by an immigrant who was fond of Boston sports teams) that in 1968, he resolved to resign from the R.C.M.P. to open his own Boston Pizza in Penticton, British Columbia. Five years later, Treliving formed a partnership with Accountant George Melville and these two went on to open dozens of other locations, ultimately leading to the development of a dynamic franchising model which has proven effective in empowering entrepreneurs to rapidly achieve success while also collectively provide jobs for more than 22,000 people. As President and Chief Executive Officer of Boston Pizza International Mark Pacinda says, “From a company perspective, it is very exciting anytime you can start with one location and successfully grow that brand so that it stretches from Western Canada to Eastern Canada, but a business couldn’t achieve such size if it wasn’t a good business. The validation of a good brand comes from the number of customers it serves … we’re excited by the fact that we’re serving thousands of people every day, from our customers to the thousands and thousands of jobs we’re creating all across Canada.”
Pacinda says that success will be celebrated in April, 2014, as franchise partners gather in Hawaii for an anniversary party fifty years in the making. “We’re going to be talking about the last fifty years, but we’ll also be focusing on the next fifty years,” says Pacinda.
From the very start, Boston Pizza has thrived in imparting a casual family-dining experience made all the more enticing by appeasing epicurean appetites with its 100 menu items that include gourmet pizza made from their signature hand-pressed dough and other edible delights in the variety of appetizers, pastas, salads, entrées and desserts. The menu has evolved over time, and as part of plans for its 50th Anniversary year, Pacinda says Boston Pizza patrons will have the opportunity to deliciously drive down memory lane by sampling some of the very first dishes distinguishing the menu when this enterprise first started, such as a Latin-sensation of seasoning in the Sombrero Pizza or that of Popeye’s Pizza (a flavor certainly strengthened by a serving of spinach). What’s more, Pacinda says plans may also include serving those dishes at the very same prices that were charged back in the 1960s; a feast made all more festive by freeing inflation from the ingredients – now there’s something else to celebrate!
After half-a century, Boston Pizza has remained an environment that caters to all ages as well as communities of sporting enthusiasts who return time and time again to follow the action of their favorite teams broadcast on the big screen TVs in the sports bar sections of each restaurant. Fresh food at an affordable price and fast, friendly, customer-focused service has not only been the formula for success, but the very foundation on which the business has been built. While much has changed throughout fifty years, these values continue to remain at the core of operations. As Pacinda affirms, “Great tasting food in a warm and friendly environment, at great prices with great service … if you can provide that you’ll have a strong business model and you’ll grow. Our slogan, in fact, it’s more than a slogan, but it says, ‘We’re here to make you happy.’ Take care of your guests, they’ll come back again, and again, and your business will stay relevant.”
If anything has changed, Pacinda says it is reflected in the degree that technology has been integrated within operations. “Sixteen years ago, there were lots of manuals and binders, but now all that material is available online. That has helped us to efficiently provide training for a lot of young people who can go online or use their iPhone to conveniently access training materials for the job they’re going to fulfill. It’s also enable customers to go online, order whatever they wish from the menu, and have dinner delivered direct to their home from any one of our more than 350 locations,” says Pacinda. “Technology has empowered us to expand our services to customers as well as our franchise partners, but at the same time, we’ve never walked away from the focus on serving great tasting food in a friendly environment.”
The business model has been further bolstered by carefully considering qualifications in franchise candidates. Corporate principals of Boston Pizza are not simply looking for investors with financial resources, rather entrepreneurs looking to build upon their own successful track records, regardless of industry background, who can adhere to the fundamental formula which this brand has consistently demonstrated as successful.
As Pacinda explains, “We have a bit of a saying here, ‘Go into business for yourself, but not by yourself.’ When some people start a business on their own, they have to figure out the procedures, the recipes, the staff training, the accounting, sourcing of supplies and so much more. In our case, that’s all been thought out, planned and perfected over the last fifty years. Our partners get to own their own business, but they’re not on their own … they’ve got a whole organization working to support them.”
Serving Customers and Communities
Boston’s Pizza business success has also beneficially impacted lives well beyond the millions of customers that are annually served. More than 20 years ago, Boston Pizza established a foundation which, to date, has generated more than $16 million in philanthropic support for a variety of worthwhile causes. The foundation, managed today by Founder Jim Treliving’s Daughter, has contributed critical funding to initiatives that include the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Kids Help Phone, Big Brothers & Big Sisters and much more. “We’re quite proud to help wherever we can … and we’re always looking for a way to respond to needs in our communities,” says Pacinda, adding that support hasn’t been limited to communities of Canada. For example, Boston Pizza has been busy delivering aid to the disaster recovery program underway in the Philippines in the wake of the devastating storm which recently ravaged the country. Boston Pizza doesn’t have any locations in this geographic area, but Pacinda says Canada has seen many from the Philippines immigrate to Canada, with many now coming to Boston Pizza as a dining guest or serving among the composite of staff. “Beyond the support work we fulfill in Canada, we have the means to help people in other parts of the world,” says Pacinda. “Whenever there is a tragedy like the one that happened in the Philippines, people just generally want to give, they want to help… and we believe we should do our part too.” Community engagement and compassionate care, for its staff, for its customers and for communities both within and beyond its base of operations – this philosophy of service has been as fundamental to operations at Boston Pizza as any imparted in protocols designed to support franchise partners and dining guests. This legacy of good work will add to the greatness of Boston Pizza’s 50th Anniversary celebration.
The Next 50 Years
While fifty years of success offers much to celebrate, Pacinda says Boston Pizza is particularly excited by the potential for the future. At present, the company has unveiled a new design prototype in Edmonton, which serves as the model for which new locations will be designed, and existing locations will transition in accordance with a seven-year mandatory renovation clause contained within franchise agreements. Pacinda says this helps prevent environments from ever becoming too dated or static, and he thinks guests will love the new look which incorporates more brick and wood elements to impart a more inviting, yet contemporary aesthetic to complement the casual ambiance. As this design style increasingly evolves throughout locations, Pacinda says Boston Pizza can be anticipated to further grow locations beyond the 350 presently established. He says while growth rates declined during the height of the recession in 2008, he’s seen significant recovery in many markets which is now contributing to the brand’s expansion. While Boston Pizza began opening locations in America and Mexico some 14 years ago, Pacinda says he anticipates expanding of the brand’s presence in these markets in the not-so-distant future.
To that point, Boston Pizza Communications Director Perry Schwartz says these days, the company spends less time promoting franchise opportunities because it is exceedingly busy fielding inquiries from those who want to be part of the franchise. “Investors are looking for something with a proven track record, brand recognition, that doesn’t only allow them to profit, but engage with a community beyond their four walls,” says Schwartz. “We recently went through our first store conversion, a situation involving a franchisee of another business which wasn’t doing so well. The owner converted his existing business into a Boston Pizza, and turned a problem into an opportunity.” The example of that owner, as Schwartz explains, is similar to the interactions that Boston Pizza is increasingly having with entrepreneurs today. As Schwartz says, “They’re looking for something greater in life and work, to be part of something bigger and better than they can do on their own, that’s what we’re providing at Boston Pizza.”
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