Another major tweak has helped the brand grow over the past two years—though 35 percent of Buddy’s business is carry-out, there was no delivery program until CapitalSpring acquired the brand. Delivery added a new revenue stream, and there is a plan in the works to add catering, too.
Despite the robust off-premises sales, Buddy’s occupies a unique space in the world of pizza restaurants: 13 of its units are full service, while three are quick-serves. That stands in stark contrast to a fast-food giant like Yum! Brands’ Pizza Hut, where 90 percent of sales are off-premises and there’s a staunch commitment to the newer “Delco” model that focuses on take-out and delivery.
“That’s really part of the Buddy’s story that we think is so unique,” Heiss says. “Whereas much of the industry in the past two years has moved to the ‘Delco’ model, Buddy’s has been around for 70 years and there’s something to that. Growing up I remember mom and dad ordering a whole pizza, giving us quarters, and we would go play Pac-Man while they waited for the food to arrive. That’s something that doesn’t exist as much anymore outside of Buddy’s.”
Still, the brand won’t be plunging into the New York market any time soon. The initial plans for expansion involve “adjacent markets.” Tight-lipped about specifics, Heiss and Balis, who served as acting CEO before the hire, did offer that they are looking for areas similar to Michigan, meaning other Midwestern states like Ohio, Indiana, and possibly Illinois. All existing units are corporately owned, but Heiss indicates franchising is something the brand is willing to explore, especially in the limited-service capacity.
For now, the brand is focused on what it calls thoughtful growth, saying that the offered target goal of 50 units in five years is less important to them than the overall health of Buddy’s.
“We aren’t going to open up new stores just for the sake of building new stores and meeting some number,” Heiss says. “We are comfortable where we are, but we also want to become a bigger brand.”