Pickleman’s Founder and CEO, Doug Stritzel, launched Pickleman’s in 2005 with the purpose of creating a nationally franchised concept. His dream succeeded with a sound economic model that provides the company’s franchisees with favorable returns, leading to significant internal growth. Today, the company comprises 29 stores across Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Indiana, and a location in McKinney, Texas, is opening in February 2024.
Stritzel proves that quality versus quantity still reaps profits and market growth. With a five-store development in Dallas and a four-store development in Indianapolis underway, Stritzel expects to have around 25 locations under area development agreements by the end of 2023 and plans to open six locations in 2024. Stritzel’s commitment to his franchisees’ success has given Pickleman’s an average unit volume in 2022 of $1.44 million, which is a leader in the quick-service restaurant sandwich segment, and 14.57 percent growth of same-store sales over the previous year for cafes that were open for the calendar year in 2021. “Over the past few years, we’ve spent time tweaking our systems to ensure that we’re ready for growth,” Stritzel says.
“Our niche in the segment encompasses healthier, high-quality food, freshly prepared. We believe we can serve fresh and healthy food with an artisan approach at a good value to the customer. Our artisan approach means scratch-made proprietary recipes resulting in foods free from preservatives, fillers, and antibiotics. Food is medicine, in my opinion, and today’s standards in this country are unacceptable,” Stritzel says. “It’s important to me that our brand serves food that we can feel good about, which has led to many proprietary products that we have manufactured.”
From bread with seven ingredients produced in a family-owned Saint Louis bakery, No Antibiotics Ever chicken and pulled pork from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to award-winning tomato basil bisque from Kansas City—Pickleman’s doesn’t skimp when it comes to all-natural, thoughtfully curated and sourced ingredients.
The robust menu features many made-from-scratch items, including salad dressings, sauces, and chocolate chip cookies to accompany its other proprietary products. This gives the brand over 40 main menu items with only 227 SKUs. This makes the cost of goods sold easy to manage, allowing Pickleman’s to appeal to a wide range of consumer preferences and a manageable business model for a franchisee.
With award-winning flavors, Pickleman’s has won Best Sandwich in Omaha for multiple years in a row, adding to 100-plus category wins in different municipalities for best sandwiches, best delivery, and best soup.
Alex Harrington, one of the brand’s largest franchisees with eight Nebraska locations, is no stranger to those accolades. After graduating from the University of Iowa, he worked for Pickleman’s Franchising in 2010, learned the operations, and helped franchisees grow the brand in multiple markets. After about a year, he had the opportunity to purchase the Lincoln, Nebraska, franchise location and realized his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
Using Pickleman’s unique brand and systems and his tenacity, he has grown the Pickleman’s brand in Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska. The company’s turnkey growth opportunity to launch and scale fast is substantial, according to Harrington, who is about to sign on five more locations in Nebraska and dreams of eventually having a total of 100.
“The biggest advantage to owning a Pickleman’s is creating a connection with the community,” Harrington says. “Supporting the community and being a true community partner is the starting point for our marketing strategy at Pickleman’s. You want to be a part of something that matters, a company that’s doing the right things across the board, and Pickleman’s does that for sure.”
By Jocelyn Winn