Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream always likes to see its guests smiling. For the first quarter of 2024, the Happy Joe’s team had its own reasons to smile, thanks to industry awards, new stores, growth and expansion, media coverage and more, as detailed in a press release.

Happy Joe’s kicked off the year by partnering with the nonprofit Children of Restaurant Employees (CORE) by contributing $1 from the sale of every Chocolate Chip Pizza Cookie in January and February.

The brand was also ranked as one of Pizza Marketplace’s Top 100 Movers & Shakers for the second year in a row, making the list’s top 25 overall out of 75 brands in the industry. In addition, Tom Sacco, Happy Joe’s CEO/president and chief happiness officer, ranked as one of the top 15 pizza executives in the U.S. for the second consecutive year.

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Growth was also on the menu, with Happy Joe’s breaking ground at its newest freestanding location in Navarre, Florida. It’s set to open towards the end of Q3 and will feature Happy Joe’s new prototype that includes modernized furniture, a drive-thru and neon signage, among other attractions.

The expansion of the brand continued with the signing of an area development agreement that plans for six new Happy Joe’s locations in Minnesota’s Twin Cities area. These restaurants are scheduled to be open by late 2024 or early 2025.

Happy Joe’s has also partnered with ORCA, a restaurant inventory management software that enables the brand to maintain high-quality food while maximizing economies of scale and efficiencies for its franchisees.   

Sacco was interviewed for a cover story in The Entrepreneur Times, and his insights were published in a roundup article by Fast Casual titled, “Why AI is 2024’s top restaurant tech trend.” He was also a guest on the Deeper Dive Podcast by Restaurant Business Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Maze, discussing how to “modernize a 50-year-old pizza chain.”

Happy Joe’s has plenty of goals for the rest of 2024, with various plans for further growth and innovation. The brand said it has several new franchisees signed, including in Fargo, North Dakota, and a suburb of Phoenix.

In Q2, the team will test a robot from Bear Robotics that will deliver food into the dining room and bring the bus tubs back to the dish room, so the front-of-the-house staff never has to leave the guests in the dining room without being attended to by a real person.

“You can see the passion for pizza and creating happy memories for our guests in everything our team does,” Sacco said. “Introducing more people to our brand by opening restaurants in new markets, creating new menu items, implementing new technologies—it’s all part of our mission to make our customers smile!”