A part of Rotolo’s business model is to own each individual market when it comes to pizza, and Rotolo Sr. feels the company has accomplished that in the four states—Alabama, Texas, Florida, and Louisiana—it currently operates in. As the brand looks to expand its franchising footprint, Rotolo Sr. wants to push into new markets, but do so with carefully selected operators.
“I think we’re fairly developed in the markets we’re in and we’re looking to open new markets,” he says. “I think we definitely want to get the right people involved with our brand. We’re pretty proud of our brand and what we do. We don’t just have a franchise sales team out to just anybody who can afford it. We’re very particular, so if we can get our existing franchisees to open a few more units and bring a few more franchisees into the system each year we’ll grow as fast as I think we need to grow.”
The new franchising initiative also caused the company to take a look at its design and overall operations. Rotolo’s decided to revamp its model and launch a new version of the brand: Craft & Crust.
This updated store has allowed the brand to differentiate itself from other competing pizzerias in established and fresh markets.
“For years we were Rotolo’s Pizzeria and when we opened in a new market people weren’t as familiar with our brand, so they associated us as being a pizza place,” Rotolo Sr. says. “Well, we offer so much more than that. We’ve got a full-service bar. We’re truly a craft-draft bar. We make craft cocktails and we are pretty close to a scratch kitchen. All of our recipes are either made in house or are housemade recipes through commissary that propriety pack for us. We make our dough at every location, every day, so we really wanted to send that message of what we are. Craft & Crust really was a better signature for what the brand is. It’s an authentic craft experience when you come into our locations.”
So far, the brand converted two existing units into the Craft & Crust model that it believes will be in business for the long haul, Rotolo Sr. says. As new locations open with the Craft & Crust design, he says Rotolo’s Pizzeria isn’t completely going away. Some existing units will continue running as they always have, but some will eventually be remodeled.
“We may open in the market with a new location and then we’ve got some units we’ll keep running as the pizzeria model because there, just again, it’s all one brand,” Rotolo Sr. says. “We’re running it as it is. The food is very similar in the two [models] and Craft & Crust is just that next evolution up of our brand. The pizzerias that we’re keeping open are going to keep running the way their running.”
Before the introduction of Craft & Crust, the last time Rotolo’s made changes to a logo was in 2003. After 15 years it was time for a good facelift, Rotolo Sr. says. “Craft and Crust is exactly that. We updated what we already did really well and enhanced on some new things that we didn’t offer at the pizzeria level,” he adds.
While Rotolo’s offers take-out at all locations, the company is a full-service operation. With the growing amount of fast-casual concepts popping up across the country, Rotolo’s needed a way to compete with these upstarts, especially during lunch. To pull in more customers at this time, the company added a slice program to Craft & Crust.
One goal of Rotolo’s model is to educate its customers to different pizza styles from around the world. Whether it’s a Neapolitan, Detroit, or Chicago-style, the company introduces these different options throughout the year. In order to showcase specialty offerings, Rotolo’s Craft & Crust models will feature a slice bar in addition to the slice program.
“The slice bar is a way to educate the public on new styles of pizza, well not necessarily new styles of pizza, but different pizzas from all over the world,” Rotolo Sr. says. “You know Detroit has their own style of pizza a lot of people don’t know that. So, what is Detroit style pizza? We’ll make a Detroit style pizza and put it on our slice bar and we’ll sell pizza by the slice.”
He adds, “This is something that’s new to Craft & Crust, so it’s pretty exciting to have different offerings where we can give customers variations of different food from all over the world when it comes to pizza.”
The slice bar will also help the brand increase traffic during lunch in a way the pizzeria model couldn’t.
“I do think the people that have a limited lunch time certainly appreciate [the slice program] and will come to us more frequently,” Rotolo Sr. says. “We’re a sit-down table service restaurant, so if you have an office of three people who want to go to lunch typically one person will run out and get lunch for that office or if they all leave for lunch they’ve got to be back in a limited window. The slice bar now helps us compete with the timing of the fast foods and the quick service without being a quick-service restaurant.”