Remember 1987? Not too many restaurants had POS systems back then. But a few forward-thinking pizzeria operators understood the competitive advantage of the new technology and became early adopters.
“We were one of the original customers of a pioneering POS company in 1987,” says Ray Cantelo, manager of operations at Beggars Pizza.
The restaurant had just undergone a major renovation the year before with the addition of an atrium sitting area to accommodate diners. Strong sales prompted the construction of a second kitchen in 1989. The following decade was marked by steady growth for the company: By 2002, Beggars Pizza ran 6 restaurants in the south and southwest suburbs of their State.
By then, however, the company had outgrown its POS. It was time for a new POS solution to fuel further growth.
“I did a lot of research,” says Ray, “And SpeedLine stood out. I talked to Terry Haan, vice-president of development at SpeedLine, and I could tell that the company was growth-minded. I wanted to be part of that and grow right along with them. And that's why we installed SpeedLine in 2002.”
“We've not been disappointed,” Ray adds. “Every new feature SpeedLine has added since we installed the system has been an asset to our business. As soon as they release a new upgrade, they have another one in the works. And they provide outstanding customer service.”
The last few years have seen rapid growth at Beggars: The chain started to franchise in 2004. At the time of this writing, in addition to the 6 company-owned stores, four franchises are operating. Beggars runs 75 POS stations, including eight in the chain's SpeedLine call center. Four hundred employees work in the company-owned stores and another 200 man the franchises. And these numbers are bound to grow, as two more franchises are already slated to open later in 2007, and one more is under contract.
Growing on a Solid Foundation
From the time Angelo Garetto opened the first Beggars Pizza in a small suburb in 1976, the company rested on the strong pillars of family and community. When Angelo transformed a local gas station into a pizza business, he named the store after his two sons and four daughters, who had been accomplished little beggars all through their growing-up years.
Unfortunately, he did not live to see his small restaurant expand and grow into a regional pizza chain. When he passed away in 1980, his two sons, Larry and Peter, took over the family business and built on their father's legacy. To this day, they remain faithful sponsors of softball and Little League groups and active members of the business community.
"Being family owned and operated contributes to our success," says Ray. "Even today, we look for franchisees who are family- and community-oriented."
“In our 30 years in business, we've built a solid reputation in the community,” Ray adds. “The original Beggars is not a big restaurant, but it drives unbelievable sales. And even though the town has only 25,000 people, we've opened another 12,000 square foot restaurant in 2002 to accommodate our customers. It's all because people know and trust us.”
The Challenges of Growth
With more than 30 years of business experience, Beggars Pizza has established time-tested processes and recipes. “We lay it on thick," the chain's tagline reads. It's important that every customer gets a culinary experience that's true to the original recipes Angelo brought to this country from the Piedmont province, high in the Alps of Northern Italy. And yet, the more locations they open, the harder it is to achieve consistency and quality control.
“Ten years ago, we set up a commissary. We make all our dough and tomato products there and we ship out daily to all our locations,” says Ray. “This gives us more control over food consistency.”
The chain has also promoted long-time managers to quality assurance positions to make sure all Beggars Pizza restaurants deliver the same good food and quality service.
In addition, the core menu at all locations is identical. “Prices don't need to be the same, because SpeedLine allows us to customize menu pricing for each location," Ray says. “But the menu layout remains constant. When we move employees to different locations, the computer set-up is exactly the same at all levels to make it easier to deliver consistent customer service.”
Because the core menu is identical in all stores, Ray can implement menu changes centrally through remote access from his SpeedLine system. And when the need arises, the menu can be adapted to fit each store's special needs. “We have three restaurants that have large bars,” Rays states. “With SpeedLine, we were able to optimize the menu to fit the bar perfectly.”
The chain is currently testing SpeedLine Inventory in one store to control stock usage and food costs. “We've installed SpeedLine Inventory in one of the stores that is run through our call center," says Ray. “We wanted to test it and make sure it fits with our operations. We've been pretty successful with it. When we've systemized the setup, we will expand it to our other stores.”
Opening New Franchises
To ensure that all stores conform to Beggars' high standards, the chain provides extensive support and training to franchisees. “We're very hands-on," Ray explains. Each operator trains four to six weeks in a company-owned store. When a store opens, I bring out a management team that is there seven days a week for the first couple of weeks. The team stays on a few days a week until franchisees can manage on their own. After that, one of our managers goes down to the stores once or twice a week to check on quality assurance. And I'm available 24/7 to answer questions.”
Even though some Beggars' locations have large dining and party room facilities seating upwards of 200 people, the mainstay of the chain remains pick-up and delivery. “Delivery and pick-up represent 80 per cent of our business," Ray says. “We make steady use of SpeedLine's delivery functions.”
“Recently, we've opened restaurants in areas we're not familiar with," Ray points out. "I'm thankful we have MapPoint integrated in our SpeedLine system, because it maps routes for us from point A to point B and then back to the restaurant. Having mapping has helped us a lot.”
With 10 stores in operation and counting, Ray's a pretty busy guy. “I monitor the stores remotely from home seven days a week,” he says. “SpeedLine has expanded their reports significantly in the last few years. I can access detailed order information for each store.”
While managing several new stores can be a challenge, it also opens new opportunities. With the growth of the franchise, Ray envisions chain-wide marketing efforts: “Once we have more than ten franchises opened and operating,” he says, "we'll plan larger advertising campaigns that small franchisees could not afford on their own.”
Right now, Beggars Pizza's database contains more than 100,000 customer records. “We have a local company help us with direct mail," Ray says. “We pull the information from our SpeedLine database and send targeted offers to each customer group. For example, last Christmas, we sent a calendar as a thank-you to a thousand of our frequent customers.”
Like many operators, Ray wants to put more efforts into marketing on the Web. The company already runs a Web site, where patrons can find information about menus, catering, coupons and specials, and franchising.“Online ordering is something I definitely want to look into for Beggars,” Ray says. “It will fit in our restaurants' structures. And we also want to utilize email marketing more in the coming months.”
Beggars Pizza's success rests on this blend of tradition and daring: New technology is fueling growth because it integrates with the company's core values and established processes. For this established independent, SpeedLine is a key part of a proven and repeatable system: Beggars Pizza is a chain to watch as more franchises open in the coming months.
Beggars Pizza in a nutshell:
- Established in 1976
- 6 company-owned stores employing 400 people
- 4 operating franchises employing 200 people
- 75 SpeedLine stations chain-wide
- 2 more franchises slated to open later in the year and 1 more under contract