Earlier this month, the company announced its first domestic franchise program. Grimaldi’s engaged advisory firm MSA Worldwide to optimize the platform, and make sure it had the proper infrastructure in place to support partners during what promises to be the company’s most rapid expansion yet.
When Grimaldi’s decided to go the franchising route, Greenwald says, the brand met with experts who have scaled restaurants through the process. One thing kept popping up. “We heard this over and over and over—you pick a great franchisee and you put them through whatever you’re going to put them through, whatever your systems or tests or conversations or meetings might be—and they will run your business better than you can,” he says. “But if you pick the wrong franchisee, you’d be surprised how quickly it can go in the wrong direction.”
This is a critical point for a brand like Grimaldi’s, which has enough history to build—or destroy—a multi-unit company on. While every location can’t be like the Brooklyn Bridge original, known for its lengthy lines and nostalgic vibe, if new units and operators gloss over Grimaldi’s story and core traits, customers will notice. Guests have typically heard about Grimaldi’s before the food even arrives, either from trips to the Big Apple or solely off reputation. And if a franchisee doesn’t embrace that standard and everything that comes along with it—accountability, expectations, and so on—the franchising process will fall flat, Greenwald says.
What Grimaldi’s plans to do, he says, is bring perspective operators into the trenches before the ink dries. Have them live a day in the life of the brand to get a real sense of what it means to run a Grimaldi’s. “The only way to see if the glove fits,” Greenwald says, “is to try it on.”
Cultural fit is the key right now. It helps that Grimaldi’s is a pretty simplistic concept that doesn’t try to overstep its core equities. So franchisees will embrace that reality wholeheartedly or they won’t. But they definitely won’t be confused.
There are really only five focuses on the menu. Grimaldi’s specializes in whole pizzas, made with a 100-year-old dough recipe, as well as calzones and antipasto, and a variety of salads and house-made desserts, including cheesecakes. The brand has its own signature wine as well—the Mille Gradi red blend, which is produced in Tuscany.
“People have asked us, why don’t you do pasta, why don’t you do sandwiches,” Greenwald says. “If you want to know a great place to get pasta, I’ll make the reservation for you. But if you want the best pizza in the country, hopefully in the world now, you come to Grimaldi’s.”