When it comes to realizing one’s dreams, Donatos franchise partner Bill Aseere is a great example of how combining hard work and belief can make big things happen.
Aseere, an Independence, Kentucky resident, has taken over ownership of 15 Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky area Donatos locations along with his business partners Mike Ash and Mark Halpin with Space Cowboys Restaurant Group. This makes Aseere and Space Cowboys the second-largest franchise partner group in the Donatos system, with a total of 17 locations, as they had previously opened new restaurants in Independence in 2018 and Highland Heights, Kentucky, in 2020.
“I have always wanted to be a business owner,” said Aseere, who got his start in the pizza business at the age of 14 washing dishes at a local restaurant. “My grandpa, Tom Aseere, took me under his wing at a young age and taught me about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. He started two different pool companies in the Cincinnati market that are still successful to this day.”
Aseere quickly moved up through the ranks from being a dishwasher to being a district manager of three locations for LaRosa’s Pizza, where he served in a leadership role for 17 years. However, even while he was working for LaRosa’s, he believed there was something special about Donatos and its Edge to Edge thin-crust pizza.
“My wife and I used to sneak out on Wednesday afternoons for our lunch date while the kids were in school,” Aseere recalled. “I was still working at LaRosa’s, but we would go to a Donatos restaurant outside of my store district to not be seen ‘cheating’ on my job when we ordered the best pizza out there, with our favorite being the Chicken Mariachi pizza.”
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In 2018, Aseere decided to make his love for Donatos official when he became a franchise partner with the family-owned brand. At the time, there were four Donatos restaurants in the Northern Kentucky market, and he expressed an interest in adding a few more. He felt that if the competition was able to serve guests throughout the entire market, Donatos should be able to do the same.
In his initial meeting with Donatos leadership, Aseere shared his vision of learning the business, taking care of his guests, loving his staff and the communities he served, and then waiting for the opportunity to expand that leadership mentality on a larger scale. When the previous franchise partner, Mike Simon of Titan Restaurant Group, began thinking about retiring recently, Aseere knew it was the perfect time to take the leap and go all-in on the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky market.
“Mike has been a tremendous asset for not just me, but the Donatos system as a whole,” said Aseere of his predecessor. “His knowledge of how to do business the right way—making a profit while also taking care of the pillars that matter (people, community and quality)—has really translated into a great mentorship for me the past five years. He and I will maintain our relationship for years to come because he cares about me, he cares about the market, and he cares about the Donatos brand.”
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Asked about his plans for the Cincinnati market, which began serving Donatos pizza 30 years ago, Aseere said, “Our main focus will be to continue investing in our staff and ensuring we have the right people in the right places to offer a work environment people want to work at. We also want to be even more visible in the community as we find creative and fun ways to be engaged with the communities we live in and care for. I’ve always wanted to make a difference with my business opportunity, so being able to give back is something that fulfills my investment in the brand.”
Donatos, founded by Jim Grote in 1963, has 173 traditional restaurants, and its products are also served in 282 non-traditional locations, including 273 Red Robin stores and nine sports and entertainment venues.