What does it take to start a franchise? Ask Mark Deloury and he'll tell you. He has built the Parrot Pizza franchise from the ground up.
"The first thing you need," Mark says, "is a good product and a unit that makes good numbers." "The second thing is cash," he warns. "You need lots of cash to get a registered trademark, copyright your materials, brand your franchise. Then you're ready to sell franchises, which is a process unto its own. It's a whole lot more complicated than I first thought."
"And after you've spent all those bucks," Mark continues, "you go out and you buy yourself a good POS system like SpeedLine." "We purchased SpeedLine in order to franchise," Mark explains. "We wanted to buy one POS and grow with it. It was a chunk of change, but it paid for itself. It has made me money."
If you're a serious operator, you've got to get the right tools," he adds. "I have SpeedLine in every one of my locations because the system integrates all aspects of the business and it's something we can expand with."
Thriving in the Jungle
Mark opened his first pizzeria, The Golden Crust in 1993. At first, he worked in the store every day to build the business.
One of his drivers, Skippy, had brought in a novelty toy, a parrot that could repeat what was said to it. "For three weeks, I was working the counter all day and it drove me crazy," Mark says. "It would just repeat everything: noises, telephone calls, everything. I told Skippy to get rid of the parrot."
Skippy obeyed. The following Monday, the lunch crowd trickled in. "Where's the parrot?" everyone wanted to know. "The parrot is wherever annoying parrots go," Mark told them. But it caused such uproar, he had to bring the parrot back. "They all talked to it, the kids, the fire chief, the town manager, the police chief… everyone loved the stupid thing. It sat on the counter for two years," Mark recalls.
With a chatty, stuffed parrot as a mascot, and a faithful staff, Mark started pushing lots of pies. He developed recipes for a delicious and unique pizza made with fresh dough and quality ingredients. His menu expanded to offer dozens of hot baked sandwiches, authentic pasta dishes, and crisp salads—available for take-out, dine-in or delivery.
In a few years, the store ran itself. "I could walk away for two weeks, and when I came back it was running exactly as if I'd been here," Mark says. "The cash was in the register, the customers were happy, the floor was clean and everything was going along."
Mark had been in the pizza industry all his working life. He worked his way up, from an enterprising twelve-year-old washing pots and pans to a successful owner who no longer needed to get his hands dirty. "I got bored," he confesses. "I started looking for more."
Now You're Squawking!
In 2001, Mark spent half a year reading all the books he could about franchising. He attended seminars; he talked to consultants. He hired a branding company to spruce up the Golden Crust image and find a new name.
"I flew out there and sat in this huge boardroom, and they did sketches and threw out ideas," Mark says. "I thought to myself, ‘This is not going anywhere!' At home, I put a $100 bill on the back of the refrigerator in the prep room and told my guys that whoever found a name for the franchise would get the bill."
"I had a lot of gentlemen from Brazil working for me. And they called each other papagaio velho, which is Portuguese for "old parrot." And what they meant was that everybody was making a lot of noise, but there wasn't anybody doing any work." "Then, one of the girls who had been driving for me since the beginning said, ‘Remember the parrot?' I said, ‘Yeah!'" She had found the name: that's how Parrot Pizza was born.
Choosing a POS
But colorful parrot characters and a catchy name was just the beginning. Mark needed a POS system. "I drove myself crazy for a year looking for the right one," he says. At first, he wasn't sold on SpeedLine. He favored another system with one feature that he really liked. He was about to close the deal with another POS company, when he got a call at the restaurant late at night.
"To see that John really cared about his clients and his business brought me to SpeedLine," Mark admits. "If you go with a company like that, you'll win 100% of the time."
It was John De Wolde, SpeedLine's president. "I didn't know who he was," Mark says. "I thought he was a closer, who wanted to push the sale. But he just asked me why I wasn't buying SpeedLine. There was no pressure." When he told me he was the president, I thought he was kidding. He gave me his cell number and told me to call him if I had any questions. It struck me that he just really wanted to know how he could make his product better." "To see that John really cared about his clients and his business brought me to SpeedLine," Mark admits. "If you go with a company like that, you'll win 100% of the time."
SpeedLine in Action
The switch from paper to POS was eventful at Parrot Pizza. "You go through those first nights live, it's an absolute nightmare," Mark says. "But our installer was so calm. He worked through the dinner hour; he worked late, came in early to get us set up. He didn't leave until it was done."
"I had some older people working the counter for me and they were terrified, just terrified, of that computer," Mark says. "I had to give them an ultimatum: you either learn this or I'm sorry; I'll have to let you go." Unhappy, they agreed to try. "Just listen and touch, I told them," says Mark. "You can't make a mistake. And sure enough, after a few hours, they were like, ‘This is easy!' By the time the installer left after four days, everybody had learned it." "Now after five years, I couldn't take SpeedLine off the counter for half an hour," Mark chuckles. "My guys would be dying to go back."
Right away, Mark noticed that his new POS increased efficiency. "Our POS has cut down our phone time," Mark notes. "It takes us only 19 seconds to take an order now. And it takes no time at all to recall a customer's last order. Not only that, we have fewer errors in the make lines." "We run the counter with two people—three on Friday—and we push 150 to 200 pies per hour. SpeedLine streamlines the whole process for us. You just can't put a price on that!"
Measured Growth & After-Sales Service
Mark was one of the first operators on the East Coast to install SpeedLine. "Only large chains had these things," Mark says. "There was no technology back then. But to grow a franchise, I knew I needed to be on the cutting edge. It's important to partner with the right people. You don't want to install in a few locations and then find out you've made a mistake and burden your franchisees with the cost of purchasing new systems."
Since that first install, Mark has put SpeedLine into two more franchises and he's planning to open another one soon. As the franchise grows, Mark's role has changed and enlarged. He started out as a manager, who was hands-on in the restaurant. Over the years, he became a business-marketing executive, a public relations manager, a culinary consultant, a trainer and recruiter all in one. "You really have to grow," Mark says. "You can't run a restaurant behind a desk, but you can't run multiple units behind a counter."
"If you run multiple units, reporting is key," Mark says. "You can spot trends and you adjust accordingly."
SpeedLine has supported Mark in his new business roles by providing the managerial and marketing functions he needs from a POS in order to run an efficient and profitable business. "If you run multiple units, reporting is key," Mark says. "You can spot trends and you adjust accordingly."
Mark is especially happy with SpeedLine's after-sales service. He raves about the tech support. "Good tech support is a big part of what you're buying," Mark says. "If there's a glitch with the system, tech support is there. I never hesitate to call. Those guys do in 10 seconds what it would have taken me an hour to do. And they're always polite." "What I say to people asking me about SpeedLine is, 'you have to decide whether you are a pizza operator or not. If you are and you want to compete, stay away from the lower end. Because on Friday night at 6:30, you can't put a price on tech support. You just can't." "On top of that, every six months, you're getting an upgrade," Mark enthuses. "That's fantastic."
Mark is continually refining the Pizza Parrot concept and provides ongoing operational and promotional support to his franchisees. In fact, helping franchise owners develop to be as good as they can be is an important part of his vision. He looks forward to opening new locations in other communities and to mentoring other food practitioners. "We're taking our growth slow and steady," Mark says. "We work on a solid financial basis in our chain. I'm in the pizza business for the long haul. I love the industry."