The chain has sold 86 franchises in the last three years, and is on track to open 60 of those by the end of 2026.
After 50-plus years in the business of food and fun, legacy brand Mr Gatti’s Pizza ended the first half of 2023 on a high note, with surging sales and 16 inked franchise agreements in six months.
When founder James Eure opened “The Pizza Place” in 1964 in Stephenville, Texas, he was laying the foundation for what would become Mr Gatti’s Pizza. He set out to craft a pizza with authentic provolone cheese, freshly baked yeast-risen dough, and a tangy sauce to top it off.
The eatertainment concept has spread across the southeastern U.S. to 70 locations with its signature pizzas and family game center. Since stepping out of the pandemic, Mr Gatti’s has experienced a streak of steady growth.
“We have sold 86 franchises in the last three years, which more than doubles our footprint,” CEO Jim Phillips says. “We believe the primary drivers for this growth is the quality of our food, unit economics, and our franchisees experiences as operators.”
Mr Gatti’s family entertainment center concept continues to exceed pre-pandemic sales, Phillips comments. He credits this to Mr Gatti’s clearly defined culture of a food-first dining option that goes beyond a meal. While the pandemic slowed business down globally, it has bounced back twofold.
An example of this is multi-unit franchisee George Kash, whose Round Rock location garnered over $225,000 in one week during 2023’s spring break. Company-wide same-store sales have increased by 7 percent, and system-wide sales have jumped by 11 percent when compared to 2022.
As franchisee requests roll in, Phillips is doubling down on support systems. Before acquiring Mr Gatti’s, Phillips was one of the largest Dairy Queen franchisees in the world, which gave him a precise understanding of the franchisee experience. In other words, he knew what they were looking for.
“We acknowledge and respect the fact that each franchisee has their own business and are successful restauraters,” Phillips says. “They want our support. They do not want dictatorial demands. So, what we try to provide is a friendly, cooperative level of support.”
Franchisees are hand-picked operators who respect and honor the culture of Mr Gatti’s, meaning their approach is both family and food-first. While financial soundness is important, cultural fit is key.
Also of note: 25 percent of new franchise sales have been agreements with existing franchisees, and the remaining 75 percent encompass deep-pocket, multi-unit operators who have chosen to join the Mr Gatti’s Pizza family. Rick Shelter, a legacy franchisee in the Lake Charles area, has been with the brand for over 40 years.
Franchise development this year includes nine units across Arkansas and Missouri, three in Louisiana, and four in Texas. The brand is on track to open 60 locations by the end of 2026.
“We see it as an endorsement of our commitment to food first, attractive price points, and dining experiences,” Phillips says. “One of our franchisees is the son of the very first franchisee in the system, more than 50 years ago.”
The brand continues to support its operations and franchisee network by consistently investing in high-quality ingredients and hiring professionals who value fine dining and entertainment. Mr Gatti’s aims to grow in southeastern markets where its strength is already compelling, with guests waiting for a location to serve them.
“The truth is we have a strong, proven brand,” Phillips says. “Visiting a Mr Gatti’s location is just pure fun. It has been a fun experience [so far] in terms of growth and key markets we are targeting.”