Mr. Pita Gets a New Papa; Two Home-Grown Detroit-Area Businesses Partner for Growth

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP, Mich., Oct. 10 /PRNewswire/ — In a move that will better position both companies for expansion, two metro-Detroit based fast food franchises have joined forces. Papa Romano’s Pizza, headquartered in Commerce Township, Mich., has merged its operations with Mr. Pita restaurants, a 35-unit Sterling Heights, Mich.-based chain.

Casey Askar, chairman and chief executive officer of Papa Romano’s, has assumed the role of chairman and CEO of Mr. Pita. Frank Lombardo, president and founder of Mr. Pita, has been named president of Papa Romano’s while continuing to serve as president of Mr. Pita, overseeing day-to-day operations of both chains.

A veteran of the pizza industry, Askar quietly purchased the 50-plus store Papa Romano’s chain from former owner and founder Ronald Hancock in February this year. Since acquiring the chain, he has renovated and updated the stores, opened three new locations, including a new prototype in Ann Arbor, Mich., and purchased seven formerly franchised Papa Romano’s locations that now operate as company-owned stores. He also relocated the company’s corporate headquarters from Farmington Hills, Mich. to Commerce Township.

“The partnership with Mr. Pita was a logical next step for us,” said Askar. “We believe it presents tremendous opportunity for both brands going forward and postures us for national expansion,” said Askar. “We’re excited and very optimistic about the potential.”

Added Lombardo, “Mr. Pita had long been contemplating a partnership and has found in Papa Romano’s a partner that provides just the right fit. We are two strong, locally-originated businesses, and we expect to build on each other’s strengths, as well as benefit from cost savings and economies of scale that come from combining our purchasing, advertising, corporate staffing and other internal operations.”

Lombardo also noted that the partnership offered ample opportunity for co-branded venues. “Mr. Pita is a highly co-brandable chain that works well with other brands. We anticipate aggressive expansion of the Mr. Pita and Papa Romano’s brands, both individually and in co-branded format,” said Lombardo. “As a co-brand, our concept offers a rare opportunity for franchisees to be able to combine two complementary brands under one roof with the benefit of shared overhead. That’s very unusual in this marketplace.”

About Papa Romano’s Pizza

Papa Romano’s Pizza began serving its premium, fresh, made-from-scratch pizza from a single location in Southfield, Mich., in 1970. Today, the privately held company has 53 restaurants throughout southern and central Michigan, caters parties of 10 or more and offers a full menu of traditional and specialty pizzas, breads, salads, chicken, subs, pasta and more. In 2007 and 2006, with Askar at the helm, Papa Romano’s premium pizza and subs were named “Best of Michigan” in The Detroit News’ annual readership survey of the best Michigan has to offer. Papa Romano’s Pizza has a passion for pleasing its customers and is dedicated to serving fresh, high-quality food. Visit Papa Romano’s on the web at www.paparomanos.com

About Mr. Pita

Mr. Pita was launched in 1993 by Lombardo, a former Little Caesars franchisee, who opened the first Mr. Pita location on Van Dyke in Sterling Heights, Mich. Known for its quality, fresh ingredients, Mr. Pita offers customers a healthy and tasty alternative to typical fast food fare. Mr. Pita’s 35 Michigan locations serve more than 45 varieties of hot and cold rolled pita sandwiches, Oven Baked Pitas, Pita Pizzas, and Pita Quesadillas, on fresh pita bread. The chain also offers a selection of fresh garden salads, hearty soups and tempting desserts. Mr. Pita offers dine-in, carry- out or delivery service and also provides catering to homes and offices with its appealing Pita Platters. Additionally, the chain also operates 11 Pita Wagons that visit work sites throughout southeast Michigan to sell Mr. Pita products. Visit Mr. Pita on the web at www.mrpita.net