Happy’s Pizza is a Michigan-based regional chain of restaurants that serves pizza, ribs, chicken, seafood, sandwiches, pasta and salad. They use only the finest ingredients – at affordable prices. They deliver thousands of meals every day from their beautifully designed iconic stores, encouraging each of their customers to “Eat Happy’s, and be Happy.”
The brand first opened in 1996 on the east side of Detroit, Michigan. The idea came from founder Happy Asker, who sought to fill a void in the urban markets for quality food at reasonable prices.
Curis has a background in real estate development, but grew up in the restaurant business. His family was a part of the Big Boy Restaurants. Prior to becoming a co-CEO with Asker, he bought a number of stores and partnered with him to help grow the company. “I bought one, I bought two, then I bought four – it was just a great franchise and concept,” he says.
Number 1 and number 1
Customer service at Happy’s Pizza runs parallel with food quality and consistency as their “number 1 and number 1” priorities. It is those dual focuses that help set Happy Pizza apart in the marketplace, Curis says.
What also sets Happy’s Pizza apart is their ability to feed a large family with good quality food for $10 to $15. Based on their size and buying power, they are able to buy quality foods at affordable prices. “We get good, quality product at affordable prices,” says Curis.
The brand’s delivery service is also exceptional, and is another thing that helps the brand stand above their competition. They deliver everything from hamburgers, ribs, shrimp and chicken to pizza. “We can feed a large family if they have different tastes,” Curis says.
They also have a customer hotline for those who have suggestions and comments. “Should we ever get a customer concern, our corporate office resolves the situation and makes sure the client walks away Happy.”
Across the entire company, Happy’s Pizza employs approximately 3,000 staff. Each store typically employs anywhere from 15 to 30 part-time and full-time employees. They currently have more than 120 commitments and 92 stores open. They open 20 to 25 stores a year on average.
For prospective franchisees, there are a number of reasons to choose Happy’s – for starters, their food is amazing, their prices are unbeatable, and the pizza industry is a growing one. Their stores themselves are also exceptional. Everything from their interior and exterior designs to their selected locations is “first class,” Curis says. “We’ve got everything from bright neon lights at night to granite finishes to special tiling throughout the whole store. You can see our whole location day or night typically a long distance away.”
What also makes them a good franchise selection is their affordable franchise fee.
When they look for a new franchisee, they look for people who are enthusiastic about the business. It can be very challenging and labor-intensive work, Curis says, and franchisees have to be motivated to succeed. The brand also looks for people with entrepreneurial qualifications, but that is not mandatory.
After signing on, new franchisees come to their corporate office for approximately two weeks of classroom training at The University of Happy’s Pizza. During this time, they will have access to a corporate kitchen to gain hands-on experience in the food process. They will also be taught how to run the business on a day-to-day basis, while making money and saving on costs.
After they complete The University, franchisees head out to different local stores of varying volumes of business to get the full range of operational experience. They are there typically for 90 to 120 days for in-store management. Just before the grand opening, the company sends up to seven people from corporate a few days beforehand to help set up.
“We’re focused on operations, we know our concept, we know our business,” Curis says. “We’re experts in the operations part of our franchise.”
“After the grand opening, corporate will stay for up to another week, two sometimes if it is exceptionally busy, because number 1 and number 1 is customer service and food quality,” he says.
Once a new store opens, a field manager is assigned for every 10 stores to check on the daily operations of each location. Happy’s Pizza also provides stores with continuous updates on their processes, and offer operational advice and assistance online and by phone.
Happy’s Coats For Kids
Another important part of Happy’s Pizza is their community involvement, which is a very close second to their number 1 and number 1 priorities. “You can’t have customer service without community involvement,” Curis says. “The customers know us and support us because every community we go to we are very community-oriented.”
One program near and dear to the company’s heart is their Happy’s Coats For Kids winter coat giveaway, offered through a partnership with the Greater Grace Temple. They typically hand out between 3,500 and 4,500 heavy-duty coats to kids, and some adults, every winter.
They also partner with a number of national organizations throughout the country when they host events, because “every event needs food,” he says. “We’re glad that a number of local and national affiliates support us enough to ask for our assistance, which we gladly give – both in food support and donations.”
Happy’s Pizza is always looking to grow and add more franchises to their portfolio. They’re carefully screening new potential franchisees on their waiting list and have already started signing area development agreements for a number of key markets nationally. “We’re always looking for qualified franchisees to come in and understand the restaurant business to grow and expand together with us.”
Also looming ahead is an update of their menu and the creation of an online ordering system, which Curis is hoping to have ready for early 2013. They’re open to adding new items to their menu, he says, particularly if a suggestion comes from a customer. If they feel it works, it will be added across the board. “We’re not just pizza. We’re not just ribs. We’re not just chicken. We’re always looking to increase the taste, quality and consistency of all of our products.”
Looking ahead to the longer term, Curis can see Happy’s Pizza expanding to 1,500 locations in 10 to 12 years. He would like to see more franchisees becoming multi-unit owners because they believe in the concept and will re-invest profits into the company. But more importantly, he wants to see a low closure rate at two per cent or less. “That to me is more important than 5,000 stores,” he says.