“There’s no such thing as too much pizza, too much ice cream, or too much good news,” according to the minds behind Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream. And in 2023, the brand, with three companies and 43 franchise locations throughout the Midwest, was able to secure an array of wins, from new locations and menu items to partnerships and awards.

Happy Joe’s built on its mission of sharing pizza, ice cream and smiles with new restaurants opening in Branson, Missouri, and welcomed new franchisees into its growing family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Fargo, North Dakota, and the Greater Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The brand even opened up new locations abroad, with three new stores in Egypt.

“We love making great pizza and creating happy memories for our guests, so it’s natural for us to work on opening more Happy Joe’s locations across the country and around the world,” says Tom Sacco, CEO, chief happiness officer and president. “With more people enjoying the Happy Joe’s experience across the globe, our team is focused on delivering new and exciting innovations to keep them coming back for more.”

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Those efforts led to several unique promotions in 2023, including the Let’s Party offer, which rewarded any guest who bought a party package with a free large dessert pizza, and the BBQ Month celebration, featuring a variety of limited-time, barbecue-focused items, including three different barbecue pizzas, barbecue pork wings, and the new sweet Dr. Pepper barbecue sauce.

The interior of a Happy Joe's Pizza & Ice Cream storefront.

The brand—which lays claim to being the first to introduce the Taco Pizza—also focused on menu creativity by introducing several limited-time specialty pizzas, including the spicy and savory Jalapeño Popper Pizza, the sweet and tangy Sloppy Joe Pizza and the New York-style thin-crust Square Pizza. Happy Joe’s also added Pizza Burgers to the menu, targeting customers’ love of pizza and burgers—using the toppings found on Happy Joe’s extensive pizza menu to top burgers with the brand’s most iconic flavors.

Meanwhile, the Happy Joe’s commitment to give back to the community continued to inspire a variety of charitable partnerships and programs. The Happy Reader program motivates students to improve their reading levels while earning prizes delivered by the brand’s mascot Happy the Dog, and the class that shows the most improvement wins a pizza party from their local Happy Joe’s. Another program involves schools and community groups being invited to group tours, where they get an inside look at the pizza making process and learn how a restaurant is run on a day-to-day basis.

Happy Joe’s also partnered with the charitable organization CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees) to bring relief to restaurant employees facing a life-altering health crisis, injury, death or natural disaster. For several months in 2023, a dollar from every Happy Joe’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Pizza sold was donated to the cause.

To strengthen Happy Joe’s expansion efforts, the company established a partnership with Integrated Digital Strategies (IDS), launching a new franchising-only website and implementing IDS’ franchise lead generation process. Both of these efforts are expected to be integral to the brand’s planned growth for 2024 and beyond.

Throughout the year, Happy Joe’s enjoyed a range of awards and recognitions, including CEO Tom Sacco being featured in QSR’s Restaurant Leaders in Franchising. Sacco also led the charge in hiring a variety of new executives in marketing, finance and operations roles, including director of marketing Josh Spiller, director of community and public relations Kristen Ersan, director of purchasing and supply chain Jenny Culp, franchise business consultant Christopher Anschutz, and director of training and culinary Ashley Balluff.

Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream was founded in 1972 by Joe Whitty in Davenport, Iowa. His dream was to create a restaurant concept that focused on serving America’s two favorite foods—pizza and ice cream—in a family-friendly, celebratory environment. Owned and operated by Dynamic Restaurant Holdings Inc., the brand has more locations in the pipeline for 2024.