You might say this company knows how to toss around some dough. Donatos Pizzeria operates and franchises more than 175 Donatos Pizza restaurants in about half a dozen states, primarily in Ohio and surrounding areas. The chain serves several varieties of specialty pizza, along with sub sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Most Donatos locations offer dine-in seating, as well as carry-out, delivery, and take-and-bake pizzas; some eateries also offer catering services for group events. About two-thirds of the pizza joints are company-owned. CEO Jim Grote and his family own the business that he founded in 1963.
Donatos has largely remained a regional fixture with a strong brand recognition in the midsection of the country. Its large base of corporate-run locations gives the company a significant amount of control over the chain when it comes to making menu and other changes. While it competes primarily with such national pizza brands as Pizza Hut and Domino's, Donatos also faces stiff competition from other regional dining names including LaRosa's and Skyline Chili.
Within its core markets, Donatos has expanded its reach into the retail segment with private-label products from Jane's Dough Foods, its bakery division. The company also has take and bake pizza kiosks located at about 100 Kroger supermarkets and Donatos products are sold at more than 20 sports and entertainment venues. Meanwhile, Donatos has been focused on remodeling many of its existing restaurants with a fresh interior that features an open kitchen.
The company is looking to expand outside its home markets through franchising, however. The company inked a development deal with former Bojangles' CEO Joe Drury in 2008 to open some 200 pizza locations in North and South Carolina through 2018.
Grote was a sophomore at Ohio State University when he opened his first neighborhood pizzeria with the help of a $1,300 loan. He later sold the business to hamburger giant McDonald's in 1999, which purchased the pizzeria chain as part of a diversification effort. (The company also acquire Boston Market and Chipotle Mexican Grill around the same time.) With its core fast food business struggling, however, McDonald's sold Donatos back to Grote and his family in 2003. – less