Sarpino's Pizzeria has training down to a science – literally

A star multi-unit franchisee, Bill Hall of Dairy Queen, conducted a survey among his hundreds of employees a few years ago. With 27 units operating, he really wanted to know what motivated his employees and made them better performers.  The results amazed him. “It wasn’t money,” Hall stated. “It was training. They wanted more training, better training.”

“That does not surprise me one bit,” says Dmitry Shapiro, president of Sarpino’s Pizzeria USA. “That’s why we built Sarpino’s on a math and science basis, rather than an emotional one.” Shapiro has a degree in systems and engineering and an MBA in marketing and finance.  He has put them all to work at Sarpino’s.

“For instance,” says Shapiro, “with our training software, there is a complete segment devoted to delivery drivers.  We are a delivery pizza business. They are the first person people see from Sarpino’s. We train them about what to say, how to look, how to get repeat customers, the works. And their manager or the franchisee, can track their results by using another one of our programs. They can reward the driver who gets the most repeat business in a month.  Aside from loving our pizza, we think he has done something right with the customer.”

“Customer focus is vital to survive in our industry,” he explains, “but it is not enough to just declare ‘customer focus.’ You have to create a system that puts the customer at the center. It’s difficult in the restaurant industry because there are 1,200 little details that must be taken care of, but by utilizing the right technology and the right software we can create an enjoyable experience for the customer every time they interact with us while helping our franchisees run the most successful business possible.”

Sarpino’s USA uses modern marketing, new computer technology, streamlined operations and exceptional financial management to support the authentic menu and create the high-volume concept that is benefitting their franchisees.

Shapiro became a partner in Sarpino’s in 2003. He had previously served as a business analyst with Sears and Kraft Foods and owned a software consulting company. He works with vice president and original Illinois Sarpino’s franchisee David Chatkin, who has an extensive background as a restaurateur. Together they make a formidable team and Shapiro’s background, combining technology with business, has helped shape their strategy for Sarpino’s USA.

Pizza is a $36 billion industry and among the most dynamic sectors of the American food landscape. As an affordable meal during hard economic times as well as a much-beloved comfort food, the pizza segment has continued to grow. It is because of this that Sarpino’s Pizzeria, already ranked as one of the Top 50 Pizza Chains of 2013, has made growth throughout the United States their top priority for 2014. Shapiro and Chatkin have teamed up with Franchise Dynamics, a franchise development company based in Chicago, to launch their first major U.S. growth initiative with plans to have 65 restaurants by the end of 2014 and 350 locations within five years.

             Sarpino’s Pizzeria currently has 46 stores in eight states across the U.S. They have a presence in a total of 15 countries worldwide. They expect to have 65 restaurants open by the end of 2014 and 350 locations within five years. Target markets with current store opportunities include Illinois, Minnesota, Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington DC.

Each Sarpino’s Pizzeria employs between 15 and 25 people depending on how busy the store is. Franchisees have found success in both urban and suburban environments thanks to brand popularity among young people in urban settings and among families in suburban communities. The company is a leader in lunchtime catering. Franchisees also have special customer segments including wholesalers and hotels, which provide additional revenue.

The initial investment for a Sarpino’s Pizzeria franchise is between $250,000 and $300,000, including required working capital. There is some variance based on location and construction.  Franchisees are required to lease or own a brick and mortar location; the standard prototype is 20 feet by 60 feet.

Shapiro says there is no single kind of ideal franchisee. “We look for people who have a passion for good food and understand what exceptional customer service is,” he said. “The best franchisees are very comfortable in a restaurant environment, have a positive attitude, are skilled at building effective teams, are goal- and growth-oriented and very well organized. We are most interested now in those who wish to build 3 to 5 stores in a committed length of time.”

“We like to work with people who want to build a business, not buy themselves a job,” he explained. “However, we believe all our franchisees need to be able to roll up their sleeves and learn the ropes of our business and our practices first.”

Shapiro says that because the company is so focused on growth and attracting new franchisees, they have developed exceptional customer services metrics and practices in order to maximize individual store profitability. “Our metrics were developed around customer experience, and our franchisees are trained with that as the top priority as well,” he said. “Every store knows what is going on with Sarpino’s customers, which helps everyone maximize their store’s reputation and profitability.”

That emphasis on that happiness of their customers and success of their franchisees has spurred Sarpino’s Pizzeria’s internal, organic expansion since Sarpino’s USA was founded. Now, Shapiro is confident those same priorities will propel the company all the way across the United States.

“Everyone deserves a chance to become successful, and we do everything in our power to help people succeed,” he said. “If you put your customers and your franchisees first, success will follow. Ultimately, Sarpino’s franchise business is about helping every one of our owner/operators achieve their goals.”