Rosati's reflects on restaurant industry changes as it marks 50th anniversary
Rosati's Pizza is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and will host a kickoff party April 13 at its Yorkville, Ill., location. All of the chain's owners and Rosati's family members, including those who opened the first pizzeria in 1964, will be on hand.
The event will also include a fundraiser for No Kid Hungry, a birthday cake designed by Lezza Baking Company, a trivia contest and a magician. Additionally, the celebration will serve as the official launch for Rosati's "scratch and win" contest, with a grand prize all-expenses-paid trip for two to Naples, Italy, on the line.
PizzaMarketplace.com talked about the milestone with Rosati's president Marla Topliff, who reflected on how the restaurant industry and its customers have changed in the past five decades, and how some things have stayed the same.
"When we began in 1964, the whole idea of pizza carry-out and delivery was pretty new," she said. "That's a big change from today, where you can find a pizza joint on every corner. And if you told the family that you would be able to cook a pie in 5 minutes, they would fall down laughing."
Also, as "artisan" is now a big buzzword in the industry, the Rosati family's idea of "artisan pizza" was putting "love and care" into each creation and making them "a work of art," she said.
Other major changes from then to now have been spurred by convenience and speed. Payment was always cash; credit cards weren't used as much and the company didn't accept checks.
The initial store was very much a family business, run by 10 Rosati brothers and sisters working alongside their spouses. It opened at 9 a.m. and closed at 2 a.m.
Anthony Rosati often talks about how the kids would be awoken at 2:30 a.m. for their own family dinner because that's when Ron Rosati would get home from the pizzeria.
"Dinner together as a family was a must no matter what time it was; it was a very popular notion back in those days. That may be the biggest change of all for our customers. With schedules being so frantic today that nightly family dinner has become a kind of grab and go thing for a lot of people," Topliff said.
Growth has also been inevitable throughout the brand's longevity. The company now has more than 150 units and recently broke into Entrepreneur's Franchise 500 for the first time.
"In 1964, Rosati's wasn't a very recognizable brand just one little store on the corner of Algonquin and Busse in Mt. Prospect, Ill. We have come a long way since," Topliff said.
What has stayed the same
Despite growth and a faster, more convenient business model, there are some aspects of the business that have stayed the same throughout the course of time. Among them are the brand's recipes and core values.
"We never compromise on product quality; it hasn't changed at all," Topliff said. "It helps that from 1964 to today, people still love pizza. They love everything about it."
She cites an oft-repeated statistic that shows 97 percent of Americans eat pizza.
Finally, even as the competition in the restaurant industry becomes even more intense — particularly with big chains continuing to grow, the fast casual "top your own" segment heating up, retail brands improving their products and c-stores and non-pizza chains experimenting with pizza — Topliff is confident Rosati's will continue to endure the test of time.
The fifth generation members of the Rosati family are starting to get deeply involved in the business and "will continue to do exactly what we're doing now," she said. "That is, serving food using the 100-year-old family recipes that have made Rosati's a household name."
The company will also focus on a new business model — sports pubs. There are currently 15 of these locations. And, the company has recently jumped into the catering space, which will further expand the brand's presence.
"Go on for another 50 years? We're planning on a lot more than that," Topliff said.
Alicia Kelso / Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.