""While the industry was abuzz this past year with large pizza chains changing their formulations and rethinking marketing efforts, when we sat down to choose a recipient for our annual Pizza Industry Enterprise (PIE) Award, we wanted to select a company that’s been steadily growing over the years—in both unit counts and sales—as well as one that has stayed true to its original mission. The choice was easy with Pizza Patrón. Since 1986, founder and CEO Antonio Swad has been focusing his efforts on the Hispanic market and has never swayed from offering value, a strong focus on community and a welcoming place for local Hispanics who may have previously experienced language and cultural barriers to quality, affordable food. “There’s a big difference between servicing a community and selling to a community,” advises Swad. “Hispanics can be an extremely loyal customer base, but if you don’t treat them well, they won’t tell you; they just won’t come back.”

After moving from Columbus, Ohio, to Dallas, in 1986, Swad opened a pizzeria in the Pleasant Grove area, which, at the time, he didn’t know was the second-largest Hispanic community in Dallas. He soon realized that if he didn’t do something about the language barrier, the store would never get off the ground. “It was frustrating to have five-year-old children translating the orders for their parents,” admits Swad, who is of Italian/Lebanese decent. “We knew something had to change.” So a couple of months later, he changed the name of the pizzeria to Pizza Patrón, hired bilingual employees, and got the name out into the community with door hangers and marketing geared toward the core customer, and by participating in events at local churches. “Most of the marketing we did in the beginning we still do today,” says Swad. “We show up to an event every single weekend, whether it’s a festival with 150,000 people or a local church carnival with 100 attendees—we’re always there to show our support of the community.”

With 102 stores in seven states, the main goal remains to provide the most food for the least amount of money. To help achieve this goal, the stores do not offer a delivery or a dine-in option—everything operates on a carryout or drive-through basis to help the customer save money. And, while some may imagine a full lineup of ethnic toppings on the menu, the only topping not found at most other pizzerias is chorizo. “Just like with Anglos, pepperoni is still the most popular pizza topping ordered at Pizza Patrón,” says Swad. “There is a propensity for ordering pizzas spicier–with jalepeños–but that’s about the only difference from every other pizzeria menu out there.”

When asked what his greatest achievement has been over the past 24 years with Pizza Patrón, Swad was quick to reply that nothing has satisfied him more than seeing so many hourly employees transition to owners of Pizza Patrón stores. “One former hourly employee now owns 11 stores,” says Swad. “My biggest achievement is that we’ve been able to improve so many lives through hard work and our brand—and continue to do so.”

As this year’s PIE winner, Antonio Swad will accept the PIE award during a future PMQ event in the presence of hundreds of his industry peers.


The Stats: 2010 Pizza Industry Enterprise (PIE) Award winner: Pizza Patrón

Headquarters: Dallas, TX

Owner: Antonio Swad

President: Guillermo Estrada

Year started: 1986

Website: Pizzapatron.com

Total units: 102 (TX, AZ, NV, CO, CA, FL, GA)

Franchise units: 94

Average annual sales per location: $480,000

Distributor: Roma

POS system: Samsung

Oven: Lincoln

Archives, Pizza News