SAN RAMON, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Straw Hat Pizza was named one of the “hottest franchises” when America’s Hottest Franchises (AHF), a show celebrating the best and brightest franchise opportunities presented its inaugural awards on its pilot show.

“Winners of the coveted award came from a wide range of industries, but all met and exceeded the selection criteria set out by the AHF review board,” said the show’s host Dara Lopata. “Nominees for this award were judged on a myriad of criteria including, but not limited to marketing programs, responsiveness during the investigation process, financing assistance and growth potential.”

Having made the debut roster of recipients, Straw Hat will lead the pack of award winners who will be honored each month and featured on the America’s Hottest Franchise Web site ( DVD copies of the show can be sent to potential franchise owners.

“Straw Hat is in major growth mode,” says Jonathan Fornaci, recently-appointed president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation who said he was brought on board in January to forge rapid growth. He added that the company plans to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations from 45 to 100 by 2011. It also will debut a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in April in the Southern California town of Barstow.

Straw Hat Pizza is a traditional family restaurant focusing on pizza, oven-baked sandwiches and a fresh salad bar. Being a cooperative corporation means that franchisees are part owners of the entire corporation. The Straw Hat Cooperative offers a growing and proven system, with easily implemented procedures, and arguably the best pizza anywhere.

The America’s Hottest Franchises show is available to view on the show’s website

About America’s Hottest Franchises

America’s Hottest Franchises realizes that prospective business investors face an endless sea of information from the many franchise opportunities. Attending tradeshows brings a flood of voice mails, direct mail pieces and e-mails. With all the dollars spent on marketing it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which franchises offer the best opportunities for success, and which ones simply have huge marketing budgets. The organization provides an independent analysis of franchise opportunities for potential franchise buyers to help them cut through the clutter.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation is unique in that every restaurant owner is a shareholder in the cooperation, building equity from the first day of investment. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties – estimated to be one-third less than a typical franchise – to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner also has a real say in Straw Hat’s future, which is gaining widespread attention in the industry. The Cooperative recently was named as one of America’s Hottest Franchises for 2008 and awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

The company operates on a business model that is a cross between franchising and a traditional partnership. The core restaurants are run by cooperative owners who become shareholders in the cooperative after paying a fee of $25,000. Individual store owners are able to vote on company matters, including selecting the five-member board of directors, and share in company profits, which are distributed at the end of the fiscal year

Today, Straw Hat Pizza is about to celebrate its 50th birthday and the chain is prepared to rapidly move in the other direction. The Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon plans to more than double in size, increasing its locations from to 100 from 50 by 2011, and expand from California and Nevada to Oregon. The chain recently debuted a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in the Southern California desert town of Barstow. The 5,500-square-foot eatery is substantially larger than existing 4,000-square-foot eateries an in addition to the signature pizza expand the menu offerings.

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of “Genuine California Pizza,” comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008. For more, go to

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