East of Chicago Pizza is a proven and established brand in the Midwestern United States. The concept originated almost 30 years ago and developed as a Chicago-style pizza, but affordable, simple and quick-serve which made the model ideal for franchise expansion. Over the first 20 years of franchise development, the East of Chicago brand expanded quickly into markets throughout Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, Florida and Pennsylvania.
The food quality was exceptional and with appropriate placement in the right markets, the brand was consistently beating out the competition. With success came some bad business and personal decisions by the company’s founder and in the financial collapse of 2008, the franchise system was sold to one of the multi-unit franchise owners in central Ohio.
With this transition, the new ownership saw opportunities for not only improving the brand and developing a better franchise model, but also reinvigorating the growth and expansion potential for the model.
East of Chicago had traditionally been a carry-out model with a limited amount of square footage and a very simple operating model where all transactions were either carry out or delivered from a relatively nondescript location. The product was top quality, yet still affordable and with a wide selection of menu offerings, but a simple production process, the pizza franchise offered significant advantages in quality over other competing pizza franchise brands.
The new ownership of East of Chicago had several key initiatives, first, redefining the operating model and creating alternative pizza franchise offerings that could widen the market and have more to offer each franchise investor when considering the East of Chicago brand.
A full-service sit-down model with a bar, QSR sit-down pizza restaurant and the existing delivery and carry-out model were all refined and developed as part of the East of Chicago franchise offering. Bigger, better product offerings were created without expanding the menu too much or creating unnecessary burdens on the back of the house.
Better marketing, branding and overall local marketing strategies were defined and implemented to carry the franchise and the unit-level economics for the pizza franchise forward.
To support the pizza franchise development efforts, East of Chicago hired Franchise Marketing Systems to help develop the brand and support strategic planning for the franchise rollout. Franchise Marketing Systems worked with East of Chicago to research the market and make recommendations to improve the FDD, Item 19 and the overall value proposition of the pizza franchise.
FMS recommended Shipe Dosik law for legal counsel and assisted in managing franchise state registrations and approvals for the pizza franchise brand.
New franchise marketing collateral and brochures were developed by the Franchise Marketing Systems marketing development team and the franchise operations processes, documentation and franchise manuals were revised and updated to accommodate new growth and new franchisees coming into the system.
East of Chicago was in a unique position as a brand. The business model was well respected for high-quality food products and excellent pizza, but the former owner had diminished the brand and hurt overall growth. The system stagnated and needed innovation to push the pizza franchise forward. \
The market for pizza franchise growth was on a hot streak driven largely by new and creative models that were speeding up the cooking time and making the pizza model modernized. This infusion of capital into the pizza franchise market left an opportunity for brands like East of Chicago to capitalize on and scale. The traditional model still had solid financials in place and franchisees by and large in the current system were happy.
When the renewed East of Chicago Pizza franchise was launched and marketing commenced, Franchise Marketing Systems oversaw the franchise development and franchise recruitment efforts through independent broker networks. The results were promising, consistent and indicative of what the pizza market was going through.\
People were attracted to the brand and excited to invest when given the opportunity to taste the product. During the first year of marketing, new 12 franchisees were brought into the system successfully, three of which were in entirely new states and provided the brand with opportunities to expand into new grounds.
Today, East of Chicago has 86 locations in operation centred primarily around the Ohio headquarters in Lima. The business model has a strong position as a mid-market contender in the pizza franchise space and with continued innovation, a dedication to product quality and strong franchise performance, the model could be a national brand in the coming years.
East of Chicago is a testament to a market scenario where although the pizza franchise market is extremely competitive and full of larger franchise organizations, there still can be opportunities for franchise growth.
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FMS is a team of expert franchise consulting professionals based in Canada that provides solutions for franchise development, franchise consultation, and expansion of businesses globally.