Saving a Brand: Stoner's Pizza Joint Set to Soar
Acquisitions, mergers, takeovers, these concepts usually raise eyebrows but rarely does the headline explain the amount of energy, money, and time required to turn a sinking brand around. Stoner’s Pizza Joint needed a shake-up and got exactly that in 2020 with new management, fresh energy, and capital investment.
Money doesn't always save a sinking ship, but it sure helps when combined with a fresh focus and commitment from the top down. Stoner’s Chief Executive Officer John Stetson saw the promise of the quick-service franchise from the start. The entrepreneur, founder and managing member of the Florida-based private equity firm Sunset Bay Capital, opened his first Stoner’s location in Fort Lauderdale, spearheading the brand's turnaround as one of its largest multi-unit franchisees.
Stetson’s belief in the brand provided a financial backstop and motivation for store operators to rebuild their presence in the communities they serve. Store morale and system-wide sales quickly began to thrive again.
“When I opened the doors to my first franchise in November 2019, I immediately saw the potential in Stoner’s as a larger franchisee,” says Stetson, who took over the Stoner’s helm in May 2020. “After accumulating eight units within a year, I wanted to show a bigger commitment to the brand by making a strategic investment and joining the management team.”
Stetson’s strategy paid off with accelerated growth throughout the pandemic. Since May 2020, Stoner’s grew from 11 to 19 units attracting “substantial interest” by investors eager to introduce its signature fare in new markets. Stoner’s menu offers an assortment of specialty pizzas, calzones, strombolis, sandwiches, hickory-smoked chicken wings made daily in-house, freshly prepared salads, and freshly baked desserts.
Bolstering Stetson’s investment is a revised franchise operations approach by Scott Mobley, chief operating officer, set to position Stoner’s to new heights. Mobley brings a wealth of multi-brand experience to Stoner’s and has developed a feel for the do’s-and-don’ts of franchising, specifically when going through high-level changes.
“Let the dust settle before making massive changes to the franchise system,” Mobley says. “It’s important to understand who got you to the dance as a brand and to incorporate their needs into the vision.”
Operationally, Stoner’s picked out pieces that were working, forged key technology partnerships like Otter and XtraChef, and increased net income levels by renegotiating all vendor and third-party delivery commission rates. Another shot to the arm came when Stoner’s inked a 10-unit deal with a key franchisee to expand the brand's footprint in Central Florida. To expedite the growth, Mobley recently joined the newest ownership group as an operating partner to help develop the stores and reinforce Stoner’s commitment to its franchisees.
With a seasoned leadership team and solid foundation in place, Stoner’s is gearing up for rapid growth and ready to grab a bigger slice of the pizza industry’s lucrative space. The chain plans to open locations in Denver, North Charleston, South Carolina, Orlando, and Southeast Florida in the months ahead.
“The corporate team has blossomed into a great support system,” adds Mobley. “We prefer to promote from within, so it truly is rewarding to see our support system thrive knowing everyone fully understands the day-to-day effort restaurants require.”
Ownership changes are never easy but often necessary for sustained success. There’s never been a better time to be a Stoner’s franchisee. Low overhead, stand-out branding, and flexible real estate requirements allow for Stoner’s to fit into any market. To join a fast-growing franchise with plenty of room for growth, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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