Pizza Patron English News Blog

Chain Sponsors In-store Events Nationwide on April 5th, 11 a.m. to Midnight

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DALLAS - In honor of Pizza Patron's new and controversial LTO product launch, the La Ch!#gona pizza, the brand is promoting a one-day inaugural event.  On Saturday, April 5th from 11am to midnight, every customer that visits a participating location and passes the "Legendary and Ancient Aztec Ritual of La Ch!#gona," will receive a large La Ch!#gona pizza at 50 percent off the regular price of $7.99. 

 

"The Aztecs are know for being tough warriors, and this challenge should be doable for our customers, men and women, who are true Chingones," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón. "I don't want to give anything away; customers must visit store in person to discover the details of the ritual."

 

Despite fiery debate nationwide over the pizza's name and Pizza Patron's assertion that it has the right to use every day Mexican slang that is no big deal to its core customer base, the company has forged ahead with the La Ch!#gona pizza launch and has experienced a notable increase in store traffic weeks before the product launch on March 31st.

 

"Customers have been coming in and asking for the pizza by name as soon as the news of the controversy began to circulate," said Gamm. "We knew then that our offering, that not only packs heat but is amazingly tasty, would be a winner with spicy food lovers that are always up for challenge to prove they are ch!#gón enough." 

 

The company continues to ask "Are you ch!#gón enough?" and "Do you dare come in to take on the Legendary and Ancient Aztec Ritual of La Ch!#gona on April 5th?"

 

The company's new LTO is a large, hand-tossed style pizza made with fresh-dough and 100% mozzarella cheese.  It features 5.5 oz. (approximately 90 slices) of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis and is topped off with a load of fresh, diced jalapeños.  Available for a limited time only, the pizza has a recommended price of $7.99.  Prices and availability may vary by market.

 

About Pizza Patrón

Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.

 

Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron

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Controversial new LTO pizza release date set for March 31

DALLAS  -- March 27, 2014 - Pizza Patrón has come under heavy fire for the name of its latest LTO pizza, La Ch!#gona.  Despite public outcry from critics, resistance from some franchise partners and media censorship of its radio ads, the company is proceeding with the March 31st launch as scheduled.

 

Pundits like attorney Raúl Reyes, Fox News contributor and columnist claim "Hispanic marketing hits a new low" with Pizza Patrón's newest LTO, but the company remains steadfast in its conviction in support of the campaign.  Company officials say that critics claiming the name La Ch!#gona is equivalent to F-word in English are just plain wrong.

 

"La Chingona is a strong word, but in the context we are using it in, it can't be offensive," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.  "Our decision-making surrounding this campaign has always been about one thing, connecting with our core customer - Mexicans, born in that country but living in the U.S., who prefer to speak Spanish and represent an important part of the American workforce .  If we alienate non-customers with our concepts, we are perfectly OK with that."

 

In honor of the new product launch, the brand is promoting a one-day inaugural event.  On Saturday, April 5th from 11am to midnight, every customer that visits a participating location and passes the "Legendary and Ancient Aztec Ritual of La Ch!#gona," will receive a large La Ch!#gona pizza at 50% off regular price.  Customers must visit store in person to discover the details of the ritual.

 

"Everything we're doing can be summed up in two words - 'Somos Mexicanos'," says Edgar Padilla, corporate marketing manager for Pizza Patrón.

 

Do you have what it takes to handle Pizza Patrón's fiery new La Ch!#gona pizza? -- are you ch!#gón enough?  The company's new LTO is a large, hand-tossed style pizza made with fresh-dough and 100% mozzarella cheese.  It features 5.5 oz. (approximately 90 slices) of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis and is topped off with a load of fresh, diced jalapeños.  Available for a limited time only, the pizza has a recommended price of $7.99.  Prices and availability may vary by market.

 

About Pizza Patrón

Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.

 

Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron

Pizza Patrón Stands Behind Banned Ads

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New radio spots banned on some networks, 'bleeped' on others

DALLAS  -- March 17, 2014 - Despite notification that its new advertising campaign would be banned from a number of major radio networks, and pushback from some franchisees over the name of Pizza Patrón's new LTO pizza La Ch!#gona, the company has decided to move forward with the concept "as created."

Pizza Patrón officials offered the following reasoning for their decision:  "We have been here before.  The unique cultural insight inherent in many of our campaigns continues to provoke a deluge of varying opinions.  Our goal is simple - to connect with and serve our customers better.

The Spanish language ads focus on the term 'chingón,' asking customers if they have what it takes to try the company's spicy new LTO pizza named La Ch!#gona.  The product is a large pizza with approximately 90 slices of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis and topped-off with fresh, diced jalapeños.  

"No one will run our ads as recorded, even the networks willing to air the spots are 'bleeping' us," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.  "When the Real Academia Española, the world's foremost authority on the Spanish language, defines 'chingón' as a very positive characteristic, it makes us feel confident in our position and in our decision to move forward without apology."

According to Real Academia Española, the official royal institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language, the definition of the word 'chingón' is defined as follows:  chingón, na.  1. adj. street slang. Méx.  "Said of a person who is competent in an activity or knowledgeable in a specific area."

Aldo Quevedo, Hispanic marketing expert and principal/creative director for Richards/Lerma says, "In Mexico, people make fun of everything: pop culture, international events and even catastrophes.  We are used to it and nobody really gets offended.  We have thicker skin and there's a reason for that.  That's why it's more shocking to me that the name is being censored here in the US.  I understand that the name of the product could be controversial. But really, after you try it you will understand that it's the best descriptor.  To me, it's the only name that fits: La Ch!#gona."

Available for a limited time only, the La Ch!#gona pizza has a recommended price of $7.99.  Prices and availability may vary by market.

About Pizza Patrón
Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.


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DALLAS  -- March 17, 2014 - NPR, National Public Radio, the non-profit media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States, recently cancelled its planned segment about Pizza Patrón's upcoming LTO pizza La Ch!#gona.  The broadcast was tentatively scheduled to air on Saturday, but was pulled for fear of violating FCC regulations according to NPR's "Code Switch" blog article entitled Pizza Chain That Markets To Mexicans Says New Promotion Isn't Profane.

This isn't the first time the media has struggled with how to talk about the company's campaign.  Telemundo 39 KXTX, the local affiliate in Dallas/Fort Worth, ran a story called Controversia por el nombre de una pizza on its March 12 evening news, opting to bleep the name in the audio, but boldly showed the point-of-purchase print materials on screen.

"Our new La Ch!#gona pizza seems to be causing a lot of challenges for news media outlets," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.  "There is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the word "Chingón" and how it is commonly used in today's culture, particularly among younger Mexicans.  Although the term sounds similar to a common Mexican profanity, it is not intended to offend. On the contrary, it is a compliment of the highest order."

As the controversy surrounding the name spreads across media and Internet channels, company officials say that they are weighing their options regarding the new product campaign that is scheduled to launch in two weeks, on Monday, March 31st.

As is always the case with our decision-making, this product's name was not designed to create controversy, it was designed to speak to the hearts of our core Mexican customers using the conversational vernacular commonly heard every day among friends and family.  The name La Ch!#gona is a perfect fit for such a spicy and delicious pizza that challenges our customers' tolerance for heat," said Gamm.

The product, La Ch!#gona, is a large pizza with approximately 90 slices of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis topped with fresh, diced jalapeños.  Available for a limited time only, the pizza has a recommended price of $7.99.  Prices and availability may vary by market.

 

About Pizza Patrón

Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.

 

Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron

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New ads too 'chingón' for many Spanish radio networks

DALLAS  -- March 10th, 2014 - Pizza Patrón, the Dallas-based pizza chain, was informed that the company's new advertising campaign would not be permitted to air on a number of major radio networks.  The decision came just weeks ahead of the radio spots planned premiere on Monday, March 31st.

The Spanish language ads feature different personalities who expound why they are 'chingón' enough to try the company's spicy new LTO pizza named La Ch!#gona.  Richards/Lerma, the Dallas-based Hispanic branding and creative agency, was hired by Pizza Patrón and charged with the task of creating spots that speak 'Mexican' to the brand's core, Mexican-born customer base.

Aldo Quevedo, principal and creative director for Richards/Lerma defended the strategy behind the ads saying, "Mexican slang and humor are very particular, and we applaud Pizza Patrón for connecting with their core consumers at a very deep level, avoiding stereotypes. The brand speaks the same way they do, I mean, WE do!"

"The decision to ban the spots over the name La Ch!#gona doesn't make much sense to us," stated Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.  "We are being selectively censored to protect the Mexican listeners from so-called potentially 'offensive' language.  These same networks regularly feature songs and talk-show dialogue that is much more risqué than anything we are doing."

According to Real Academia Española, the official royal institution responsible for overseeing the Spanish language, the definition of the word 'chingón' is defined as follows:  chingón, na.  1. adj. street slang. Méx.  "Said of a person who is competent in an activity or knowledgeable in a specific area."

Edgar Padilla, marketing manager for Pizza Patrón and the creative mind behind the La Ch!#gona campaign said "colloquialism," "picardía" (street-wise humor) and "censorship" are common traits in Mexican culture. "These same characteristics are essential to the foundation of our campaign whose objective is to speak directly to our customer's heart.  We understand and know who we are targeting and make no excuses - Pizza Patrón is a brand for La Raza (the people)."  

The product, La Ch!#gona, is a large pizza with approximately 90 slices of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis topped with fresh, diced jalapeños.  Available for a limited time only, the pizza has a recommended price of $7.99.  Prices and availability may vary by market.

About Pizza Patrón
Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.



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Brand sought a disruptive agency partner to support new products and offers

DALLAS  -- March 3rd, 2014 - Dallas-based ad agency Richards/Lerma has been selected as creative agency of record by Pizza Patrón.  The relationship will have the agency assisting in traditional, digital, social media and public relations programs for the Mexican centric pizza chain as well as some creative input on naming and product development work.

Pizza Patrón, founded in Dallas in 1986, is known for its value priced quality pizza offerings. However the brand's non-traditional approach to marketing their products have led them to make national news. In 2007, the disruptive brand launched its PIZZA POR PESOS® program and began accepting pesos as a form of payment at their takeout restaurants drawing accolades and criticism. Most recently, Pizza Patrón garnered national news coverage during their free pizza promotion PIZZA POR FAVOR™ that offered free pizza to those visiting the restaurants and ordering in Spanish.

"Pizza Patrón will always be faithful to who we are and we will never apologize for our brand focus. We stand for something that goes beyond the products we offer, that's why we are willing to take risks to stand behind the values of our core customers," said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.

Edgar Padilla, corporate marketing manager for Pizza Patrón, said the brand is not only known for its outside-the-box marketing ideas, but also for its amazing Mexican-centric pizza offerings. 

"Breaking through these days is hard, especially for smaller brands competing against category giants. This is why we decided to move forward with Richards/Lerma. They understand what it takes to break through and disrupt. They work with some of the largest brands in the country but also with category mavericks such as MetroPCS, so they grasp accountable creativity," said Padilla.

Aldo Quevedo, Creative Group Head and Principal at Richards/Lerma said "We couldn't be happier with Pizza Patrón's decision. The greatest news an agency can hear isn't necessarily that you've been selected, but rather it's that you've been selected by a brand that wants to do great work and sees the value in that for the bottom line. Everyone will soon be hearing about Pizza Patrón's latest offering."

"People in the know understand that Aldo Quevedo and his creative vision can really help a brand make some noise. From a marketing and advertising perspective, these guys share our values," added Gamm.

About Pizza Patrón
Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.

About Richards/Lerma
Richards/Lerma is a full-service branding and creative agency dedicated to crafting insightful and relevant communications for the Hispanic market. Based in Dallas, Richards/Lerma was founded by Pete Lerma and Stan Richards, creative director of the nation's largest independent branding agency, The Richards Group. Current clients include Advance Auto Parts, MetroPCS, Fram, Prestone, Autolite, The Home Depot and Ram Trucks. Richards/Lerma can be found online at richardslerma.com and on Twitter at @richardslerma.
PP Storefront-BLOG PIC.jpgNew pizza name is "too hot" for some of Pizza Patrón's franchisees

DALLAS  -- February 24, 2014 - Pizza Patrón, the Dallas-based pizza chain, plans to release a new LTO pizza that is creating controversy among its franchise partners.  Franchisees do not dispute the product itself, a large pizza with approximately 90 slices of proprietary jalapeño stuffed pepperonis and topped with fresh, diced jalapeños.  The problem stems from strong differences of opinion surrounding the name - La Ch!#gona.

The name La Ch!#gona comes from the word 'chingón' which is an informal Mexican slang word that can mean many different things depending on the context in which it is used.  In the case of La Ch!#gona pizza, Mexican customers might describe it as having "chingo de pepperoni" (tons of pepperoni) and "pica chingón" (deliciously spicy).

"We understand that the word 'chingón' can have strong overtones, but it is a very common colloquial term used today by many of our customers when talking with close family and friends - especially among males 18-34 who are the primary target for this pizza" said Andrew Gamm, brand director for Pizza Patrón.  "We think La Ch!#gona is a perfect name for a formidable, spicy pizza like this - it's a dare to our customers to see if they are 'chingón' or 'chingóna' enough to eat this product."

Company officials admit that this isn't the first time they have experienced internal controversy.  "This has happened before with other campaigns," said Gamm.  "For example, when we developed PIZZA POR FAVOR™ in 2012, more than half our franchisees initially refused to run the promotion causing us to delay the original launch date for months.  In the end, the campaign increased sales across our system and franchise partners were pleased with its success."

Pizza Patrón hopes to have the product available in most of its restaurants when it is released in March, but is encouraging customers to speak up if they don't see the product at their favorite location.  "Ultimately, our franchisees and managers really care about their customers and always wish to serve their needs," said Gamm.

About Pizza Patrón
Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.

Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron



Pizza Patrón plans to heighten standards and tighten focus


DALLAS  -- January 8, 2014 - After ten years of franchising, Pizza Patrón announced today that it is suspending its franchise program indefinitely.  The company will continue development with some of its existing franchise partners, but will concentrate its growth focus on building company owned stores.

 

Company officials say the decision was made to ensure high company standards from store to store - the standards of operation, the quality of the products and service, improved marketing execution and more efficient policing of Pizza Patrón's branding and trademarks.

 

"We are proven and successful operators of the Pizza Patrón model," said Antonio Swad, founder of Pizza Patrón. "I think we understand how to maximize its potential better than most."

 

Swad went on to point out the value of successfully growing a brand and owning a unique position in the marketplace - that great branding always reveals a company's personality and makes a promise that it must strive to fulfill with every customer experience.

 

Pizza Patrón gained notoriety and international media attention for its non-traditional approach to marketing its products.  In 2007, Pizza Patrón launched PIZZA POR PESOS® allowing customers to pay for their pizza using Mexican pesos, making the brand a flashpoint in the nation's debate over immigrants.  More recently, Pizza Patrón reaped national news coverage for its PIZZA POR FAVOR® promotion that rewarded customers with free pizza if they ordered in Spanish.

 

"As Pizza Patrón moves ahead, we will continue to sharpen our brand and increase its relevance in the marketplace," Swad explained.

 

Swad acknowledges that going forward, the company will also consider entering into certain licensing agreements with companies that have access to special outlets like national grocery chains, major food services corporations, airport locations, college and university campuses and hospitals.

 

About Pizza Patrón

Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.


Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron


DALLAS  -- January 17, 2014 - Pizza Patrón said today that despite closing nearly 20 percent of its stores in 2013, it achieved the highest overall yearly sales in the company's history.


Pizza Patrón opened seven new restaurants and closed 20 locations in multiple markets in 2013.  Although the company is forecasting that a handful of additional locations will close in 2014, executives say the company expects to finish this year with 25 new stores - over 30 percent growth above the current store count.


"Suspending our franchise sales program has allowed us to become a restaurant company again.  We are focused on two things - food and people," said Antonio Swad, founder of Pizza Patrón. "By closing some of our most poorly operated stores and purging the system of our least engaged operators, we are now able to concentrate our focus on the fundamentals of our restaurant business."


Swad, founder and CEO of the Mexican pizza chain, recently took over the role of company president.  Since taking the helm, Pizza Patrón's staff has been reduced by more than 30 percent, a new store development model has been initiated and a narrowed brand focus has been triggered.


"I believe Pizza Patrón is more relevant now than ever," said Swad.  "We have a very focused brand that also has extremely broad appeal.  It's a great position to be in only if you can execute at a high level. We are moving forward with a great group of talented and committed franchisees.  In addition, we are building company-owned stores for the first time in our history.  I am confident that this will be a huge year for Patrón."


Swad is encouraging remaining franchisees and managers to focus on the company's efforts to strengthen its business for the long term.  "We believe all the steps we are taking will pay off in the long run," Swad said. "And, we feel very good about the progress we have made so far."

Swad also acknowledged that as part of its new efforts to grow the brand, Pizza Patrón Inc. will entertain licensing agreements with companies who have access to special outlets like national grocery chains, major food services corporations, airport locations, college and university campuses, and hospitals.


About Pizza Patrón

Since 1986, Pizza Patrón has been committed to making its promise of "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero.®" a reality for every customer.  From the beginning, the brand has been recognized for its 'fresh-dough' pizza, its low prices and its trademark "friendly, bicultural service."  In 2007, the company drew international media attention with its PIZZA POR PESOS® program when it began accepting Mexican Pesos at all of its restaurants.  In 2012, the company's PIZZA POR FAVOR™ promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish sparked international news coverage and lively debate throughout the U.S.  Today, Pizza Patrón is the leading Mexican pizza brand in the U.S. and remains dedicated to bringing its unique experience to life with every pizza made, and in every community it serves.


Website - www.pizzapatron.com

Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/pizzapatron

Twitter - http://www.twitter.com/pizzapatron


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By KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS

Staff Writer

krjacobs@dallasnews.com

Published: 15 January 2014 09:07 PM

Updated: 15 January 2014 09:07 PM


A worker at the Pizza Patrón on busy Buckner Boulevard retrieves two ready-to-go pizzas from a warming oven, hands them to a hungry diner and calls out "lista," the Spanish word for ready.

It's a signal to the cook that more no-wait pizzas are needed.

It's also the state in which the chain's founder, Antonio Swad, finds himself.

Last year Swad mothballed Pizza Patrón's franchise recruiting operation and closed 20 underperforming locations. More than a dozen franchisees have left the system, some with hard feelings.

Now, Swad says he's ready to move into the chain's next phase. It's planning to open company-owned locations for the first time.

"The reasons that we made the decisions we made are solid," said Swad, who leads a Latin-themed business but speaks only poquito Spanish. "We're a company that's really on the move."

Founded in 1986 in Pleasant Grove, Pizza Patrón is not subtle about courting its core customer. The motto is in Spanish: "Más Pizza. Menos Dinero" (More Pizza. Less Money).

The Dallas-based chain, which now has 89 locations, mostly in Texas, sparked a firestorm of controversy in 2007 when it allowed customers to pay with Mexican pesos.

Swad followed that gambit in 2012 with a "pizza por favor" promotion that gave free pizzas to anyone who ordered in Spanish.

As hundreds lined up for free food, Internet posters lobbed angry comments that inevitably led to a debate about immigration.

Pizza Patrón's radio ads are solely focused on the Mexican-American audience. They are laced with Mexican alburear, or humor, said Andrew Gamm, the chain's brand director.

And two-thirds of the franchisees -- entrepreneurs who use their own funds -- are Latino. Swad is not.

Over the past 10 years, the company grew from four locations, all owned by Swad, to more than 100. Of the 89 remaining locations, 79 are franchised and 10 are owned by Swad. About 35 are in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Franchising growth

Like the rest of the restaurant industry, Pizza Patrón owes its girth to franchising.

Among fast-food restaurants, which generally includes the pizza category, 13 percent of restaurants are company-owned, 46 percent are owned by franchisees, and the remaining 41 percent are independents, according to National Restaurant Association.

For the restaurant industry as a whole, franchising remains a popular growth model. It allows a brand to dramatically increase the number of locations without having to pay for their construction or upkeep.

The International Franchise Association, a trade group, estimates that there will be 155,571 franchised fast food restaurants and 36,981 franchised full-service, sit-down restaurants operating in the U.S. this year. That makes restaurants the largest category in franchising.

Among franchised outlets, business services (such as tax preparation), commercial and residential services (including cleaning), and quick service restaurants are expected to see the strongest employment gains in 2014, according to a forecast released this week by the franchise association.

"It's very rare to see a franchise restaurant brand convert to corporately owned restaurants," said John Reynolds, president of the franchise association's educational foundation.

"In most cases, it goes the other way, where a local or regional chain of corporately owned restaurants will decide to embark on franchising for a more rapid development of their brand and to gain more market share."

Desire for change

But Swad, who also is chairman of Pizza Patrón and took over last year as president, wanted change.

"I noticed ... that we were spending time on relatively unimportant things, attempting to build consensus among our franchisees on minor decisions, instead of putting our time and energy on developing a strategy to move the company forward," he said as transactions took place in Spanish at the counter a few feet away.

For example, he said, it took months to get the franchisees behind the "pizza por favor" promotion, in part over unhappiness that they would bear the cost.

"We spent time and energy on this 'get on board' process instead of the 'let's move forward' process," Swad said.

So last year, at least five franchisees left the system. Swad said it was "by design."

What does "by design" mean?

"Without going into excruciating details: Franchisees have an obligation to maintain the brand to a standard; they need to operate their restaurants to a standard that was difficult for some. We're committed at Pizza Patrón to raising our standards of operation higher than they've ever been.

"Sometimes when you raise the standard, not everybody is able to keep up," he said.

Fewer franchisees

More franchisees left before last year. In 2008 there were 50. Now there are 32, and some probably won't be around next year, Swad said. No more will be added for the foreseeable future.

The company closed out entire markets: El Paso (all six stores), Las Vegas (all six), Fresno (all three) and San Diego (both stores). All Dallas-Fort Worth stores remained open.

Pete Tucker, a restaurant industry veteran, closed the two San Diego stores because keeping them open "just didn't make any sense" financially. Without the name recognition the brand has in Texas, and with the California pizza market already saturated, Tucker said he lost money on his two stores.

"We just could not make the business work in San Diego," he said. "We don't hold any bad will to Pizza Patrón."

Another former franchisee asked that his name not be used because he may file a lawsuit. The company is not currently facing litigation, Swad said.

The second former franchisee agreed with Tucker that locations outside of Texas had a hard time generating enough sales to break even. Not counting Swad's stores, many of the other locations were losing money, he said, and his loss was in the seven figures.

Record sales in '13

Gamm said even with the store closures, the company posted record sales in 2013 of $39.4 million.

He said he has not heard of any filing for bankruptcy.

"We do have some terrific franchisees in this system that we're happy to grow with," said Swad, who also founded the Wingstop chicken wing chain.

With last year's store closures behind him, Swad is planning for growth.

In 2013, seven locations opened -- all franchised.

This year, 25 are expected to open: 15 corporate locations and 10 franchises, with 20 of those locations in Dallas-Fort Worth. The average cost for a strip mall location is $250,000. Money for the corporate locations will come from corporate coffers. Swad said he has not taken on any new investors.

"It's a lot [to take on] in one sense. In another sense we're speaking to our core competency," said Swad, ducking into the kitchen to check on an order. "It's an exciting challenge to have.

"We're really amped up around here. We have a big year ahead of us."

Follow Karen Robinson-Jacobs on Twitter at @krobijake.


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