Pizza Factory owner says $90K needed to start Summit County store |

Pizza Factory owner says $90K needed to start Summit County store

Pizza Factory CEO Mary Jane Riva, shown here, says her California-based chain of pizzerias is looking to expand into Summit County, and she recently discussed exactly what it would take for someone to start a new franchise location here.
Special to the Daily |

Looking to expand its footprint into states like Texas, Wyoming and Colorado, a California-based chain of pizzerias, Pizza Factory, recently put out a call for someone to become a new franchise owner in Summit County.

The open-ended request for a new franchise owner wasn’t terribly specific, and it didn’t say exactly where the gourmet pizza chain with more than 100 locations across six Western states hoped to locate here — be it in Silverthorne, Dillon, Frisco or Breckenridge.

It also did not list exactly what that person might need financially to get a new Pizza Factory going here, though there is some information available online, as a handful of websites designed to connect potential investors with franchise opportunities like this suggest a range of financial figures — all within the same general ballpark — for starting up a Pizza Factory.

However, speaking over the phone last week, owner Mary Jane Riva said the individual they’re looking for, financially at least, would need to have $90,000 to invest in the store and a net worth of at least $250,000.

“We’re not even up on the scale as far as our requirements,” Riva said comparing Pizza Factory to other chains and adding that their annual franchise fee is $30,000. “We’re just looking for people who want to work hard and be in their community.”

Veterans get a 50 percent discount on the fee, Riva continued, and the company supports various charitable causes, both on the local level and as a chain, as a point of pride.

As far as support, Riva said the company will help its franchise owners find a location, train them, assist with marketing and dispatch a team to the location to ensure a smooth opening.

The company also looks to provide a high degree of autonomy, with individual owners controlling many of their menu items and the interior of the pizzeria.

Pizza Factory requires no previous restaurant experience to become a franchise owner, and actually, they prefer to train their owners, Riva said, “teaching them from the beginning.”

“They can bring habits with them from other places,” she explained, “so we actually like it when we can start them from scratch in our program.”

Of all places, why Summit County?

“I’ll tell you,” Riva said. “With Pizza Factory, 70 percent of our stores are in towns of 20,000 people or less. We are in some cities of about 125,000, but that’s pretty big for us. Denver, obviously, would be really big for us, but we tend to go for smaller communities.”

She said Pizza Factory franchise owners are generally people who run the store themselves, live in the area, have children and want to be involved in their community.

The biggest city they’re in is San Jose, California, but most locations are in much more rural areas, including some towns with 2,000 people or less. More important than the size of a city or town, Riva said in explaining they have “a very different way” of looking for locations than most companies, is “that community feel” or the culture of a place.

“Our culture is family, and it’s an old-fashioned, sit-down pizzeria,” Riva said. “So for 30 years, that’s what we’ve been. Small towns — or smaller towns, let’s say — that’s our specialty.”

Originally started by another couple more than 35 years ago in Oakhurst, California, Pizza Factory now has 112 locations altogether with another two about to open, both in California.

Riva and her husband started out with Pizza Factory as franchise owners. Then they bought the company in 2012, and together they now manage one corporate store in California in addition to three other franchise locations. All the other Pizza Factories are franchised out with other owners.

Overall, the number of stores hasn’t fluctuated much since Riva bought the company, hovering at about 110 locations since then. Not wanting to sugar coat it, Riva said they have closed about as many stores has they have opened since she bought the company.

“I could sit here and paint a pretty picture, and I could say ‘We’re one of the franchises that doesn’t ever have stores close,’ but they do,” she said, noting that it can happen due to any one of a number of factors, including retirements. “Some just aren’t going to make it. That’s the reality.”

Slow periods will happen, she continued, but when business “is going and it’s going good, you’re blessed, you’re feeling very, very fortunate because … to be able to own your own business, be able to pick your own hours and to be involved in your kids’ schools, like I was able to because of this business, it’s pretty fortunate.”

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