• Pizza franchisors seeking autoworkers, military veterans

Pizza franchisors seeking autoworkers, military veterans
Wanted: Ex-military and/or ex-automotive industry workers to become pizzeria franchisees. We seek disciplined, task-oriented men and women with a strong work ethic and teambuilding leadership skills. Desirable candidates are those who want to control their financial destiny and who aren't afraid to be hands-on operators. We provide proven working systems and a roadmap to success as a pizzeria operator. Restaurant experience a plus, but not mandatory.
 
The want ad is fictional, but the skills sought aren't. A growing number of pizza franchisors are targeting veteran soldiers and ex-auto industry workers as prime franchisee candidates. Why? Because the best of both groups are hardworking team-oriented people who perform well in structured environments centered on proven systems. Plus, running a pizzeria largely is a methodical process best managed by individuals comfortable with following a prescribed plan.
 
"These people are generally hard working, they've got some money and they're too young to retire though they've been laid off from the auto industry," said Jack Butorac, president of Marco's Franchising, the sales arm of 150-unit Marco's Pizza in Toledo, Ohio. "We also want someone who will follow our procedures instead of someone who's very creative. These are guys and girls who understand repetition, have high standards and know how to do it right."
 
Autoworkers in particular, Butorac said, have weathered the ups and downs of that industry for years and are eager for control of their financial futures. And unlike with regular franchise candidates, Marco's is sweetening the deal for autoworkers through reduced franchise fees, rebates to those who relocate to open a store and the waiver of its construction coordination fee.
 
"We want to remove as many barriers to entry as possible," he said. "We also will take 20 percent of the royalties we collect from these individuals and apply them to the (United Auto Workers) union's training and reeducation fund for three years."
 
zpizza also is targeting autoworkers in search of a career change. According to Greg Jones, vice president of sales for Fransmart, the parent company of zpizza, a little disgruntlement is a good thing with a franchise candidate.
 
"We want those individuals who are not happy with their position, people who are looking for something more exciting, an opportunity to do something different," said Jones. The company isn't, however, discounting its fees for laid-off autoworkers or veterans. "We are focusing on people who want a fresh start, who have enough investment capital to get started."
 
Like Butorac, Jones is selling veterans and displaced workers on the benefits of investing in a reliable business rather than investing buyout money or pensions on an independent start up. "A franchise is a much simpler way of going out on your own. You have a proven game plan, a proven concept and tons of support."
 
Soldier on
 
Last year, Little Caesars' co-founder Michael Illitch was moved when he read a story about a U.S. soldier who lost the bottom halves of both legs following a mortar attack while serving in Iraq. A veteran solider himself, Illitch saw
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friends return from the Korean war maimed for life, and he regretted not being able to help them then.
 
Determined not to miss an opportunity to assist now, Illitch tracked down the solider, Robbie Doughty, who was recovering at home in Paducah, Ky., and offered him a Little Caesars Pizza franchise — free of charge.
 
"When he read the article about me, I think he saw a kindred spirit," said Doughty, who expects to open his store in February along with another veteran. "I ran into a couple that had relocated to the Paducah area from Detroit a few years ago. They heard about me opening the restaurant, and they couldn't stop talking about all of the great things the Illitch family has done in Detroit (where the chain is headquartered). It shows just how far their helping hand has reached."
 
Doughty's acceptance of the deal led Illitch to set up a committee at Little Caesars to investigate what more the chain could do for veterans. Rick Moreno, the company's vice president of administration and planning, became chair of the committee, which eventually developed the Little Caesars Veterans Program.
 
For honorably discharged vets, LCVP takes $5,000 off the chain's $20,000 franchise fee and provides a $5,000 credit on equipment ordered for the first store.
 
For veterans disabled in the service, the full $20,000 franchise fee is waived and a $10,000 credit is given on the first store's equipment order. The company throws in financing options and benefits, as well as grand opening marketing support from leading national companies. The total benefit package can be as much as $68,000.
 
"It's a lot of well-rounded support to help get them get their business off the ground," Moreno said. "So far, we've had more than 500 inquiries and 37 qualified applicants sent to us by the Center for Veterans Enterprise." CVE is part of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
 
Rick Loz (pictured at the top of the story) is a vet preparing to open a Little Caesars in Allentown, Pa. He found out about the program while investigating franchise opportunities for himself, and he sees the opportunity as an extension of his military experience.
 
"Running a Little Caesars pizza franchise ... takes dedication, team-building skills, good problem-solving skills and, most of all, good leadership skills," he said. "I believe the military has trained me well in all of these areas and I look forward to putting these skills to use in my own business. I think it's a good fit."

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