Little Caesars, the world’s third-largest pizza chain, recently introduced its POD Program, with the inaugural POD location opening in Keokuk, Iowa, in December 2023. Featuring a cutting-edge modular unit, PODs are an eco-friendly solution that also qualify for a full tax write-off—a significant financial advantage for franchise owners.

“The modular design allows franchise owners to accelerate operations swiftly, ensuring a quicker turnaround from blueprint to grand opening,” the brand announced. “With only two-to-three employees needed to efficiently operate the entire facility, without compromising on service quality, the POD program is redefining the operational landscape of fast-food establishments.”

Bryan Ketelhut, national director of non-traditional and development services at Little Caesars, based in Detroit, recently sat down with PMQ to discuss the POD Program.

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Please tell us about the POD Program. How does it work?
PODs are Little Caesars’ newest prototype. This contemporary restaurant design features a cutting-edge modular unit with recyclable walls that are manufactured off-site and seamlessly transported via a semitruck to the concrete foundation on location. Once it arrives to the location, it is ready to assemble. Hooked on a crane, the POD is lifted to the concrete platform to ensure precise installation.

The POD features a drive-thru window for easy ordering, as well as an indoor walk-up window open year-round with access to the Little Caesars Pizza Portal. The modular design minimizes the impact on the surrounding community and reduces construction time, so franchise owners can open quicker than with other prototypes.

The interior of a new Little Caesars prototype, featuring pick-up lockers and flatscreens.

Little Caesars

What was the inspiration behind this modular approach to building new locations?
Little Caesars has experienced immense growth in recent years and has a strong development pipeline going into the new year. As we strive to maintain our position as a value leader within the pizza space, we recognize it’s important that we continue to innovate and look for opportunities to provide our franchise owners with prototypes that maximize profitability while also catering to the needs of our guests so they’ll keep coming back for more.

Also, the [quick-service] industry is changing, as is the way consumers engage with restaurants. As the third-largest pizza chain in the world, we’re committed to continuing to deliver the ultimate ordering and dining experience our guests expect, and Little Caesars PODs help us do that in more ways than one.

What did you learn in the process of opening the first location?
In the process of opening our first POD-style Little Caesars restaurant, we gained valuable insights into various operational aspects. While I can’t provide specific details, I can say that we noticed a few minor changes to the layout and components that we could remove to make the store have a better flow for the employees and customers. These adjustments were necessary to ensure smooth operations and to meet the needs and preferences of our customers effectively. Overall, the experience has been one of continual learning and adaptation to optimize the restaurant’s performance and customer satisfaction.

What are the benefits of this approach for franchisees?
Little Caesars PODS are unlike anything else. The unique benefits to franchising with a POD are what set us apart and what’s drawing the attention of many existing and prospective franchisees. Because of the way they are manufactured, PODs’ building costs are lower and have a quicker construction timeline than most traditional restaurants. We anticipate total costs for a Little Caesars POD to be around $700,000, with no additional site work expenses. On average, we anticipate a 90-day construction timeline on all PODs, from start to the grand-opening date.

As we further our franchise development efforts throughout 2024, we’re seeking opportunities to build on the momentum from the past 12 months, and PODS are a big part of those plans. Opportunities exist for both new and existing Little Caesars franchisees to invest in PODs. The first opening of a Little Caesars POD was with a current multiunit franchisee, Dave Riney, who owns 15 other Little Caesars. Since the opening in Keokuk, Iowa, Dave and his team have seen tremendous results, and we’re eager to replicate those efforts across many of our target markets in the U.S.

What are your goals for this program?
This is just the start of the Little Caesars POD program. Seeing the success of the Keokuk location, we’re excited about continuing to expand our brand’s footprint across the U.S. with additional PODs. Multiunit franchising opportunities are available in regions across the U.S., including the Northeast, Pacific Northwest, Kansas City, New Orleans, and North and South Carolina.

Pizza News, Little Caesars