After struggling for some time, business is back and booming for the Little Caesars franchise, local franchisee Tom Getz said.
“I think, when I got in it 25 years ago, it was pretty good,” he said. “We went through a period of time where I feel like we kind of lost our niche. I think the quality may have gone down in the mid- to late '90s. We actually, nationwide, closed some stores down.”
But the business has bounced back with its Hot-N-Ready carry-out special, and Tom and his wife and business partner Karol Getz are adding two more Chattanooga stores to their 13 other Tennessee and Georgia locations.
The grand opening of the new Brainerd Village location, 5730 Brainerd Road, is scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m.
The store had its soft opening a few weeks ago.
And later this summer, at the end of July or beginning of August, the duo is “taking a leap of faith” into another area of town.
“We are actually kind of going into new territory,” Tom said. “It’s kind of going inner city ... at the corner of Dodson and Wilcox. There are a ton of people that live down there, and for whatever reason, businesses kind of stay away. We want to be a part of maybe cleaning up that area.”
Getz will open a store in the former Church's Chicken location that is currently boarded up and run-down. The goal is to change that building into a brighter, cleaner restaurant in hopes of starting to revitalize that corner and help improve the community.
A new store usually means 20 to 30 new jobs, a mix of part time and full time, Tom said.
After the franchise fumbled through a few unsuccessful promotions, such as “two great pizzas, one low price,” the “hot and ready” idea seems to have grabbed customers.
Little Caesars serves pizza, wings, breadsticks and cheese bread, and it specializes in its Hot-N-Ready products that can be purchased all day with no waiting and no need to call ahead.
Some stores have drive-thrus, so customers don’t have to come inside.
The combination of better-quality products, a good price point and convenience has helped the franchise, Tom said.
“We’ve made a really strong comeback,” he said. “That’s what has allowed us to open up more stores.”
Last year, CNNMoney named Little Caesars one of its 10 best franchise bets.
According to the article, startup costs are between $193,050 to $619,500, and a new owner needs to have a net worth of $150,000, at least $50,000 in cash, and be able to obtain financing to cover the remaining costs.
Franchisees took out 103 Small Business Administration loans, and only one loan failed, also according to the article.
Tom said he and Karol have funded their ventures both from loans and with internal funds, and because the business has a successful model, getting funding hasn’t been a problem for them.
Chattanooga resident Brian Lutz said he has long been a fan of Little Caesars.
“It was the go-to option for the college student on a budget,” he said. “Guess it stuck with me.”
A couple of local residents said they didn't think the pizza was the best, but it isn't the worst. And a low price point and convenience makes a difference.
"In my opinion, it's not the best pizza, but when you're poor or need something in a pinch, it works," Chattanooga resident Whit Gardner said.
Chattanooga resident Chelsea Sadler said it doesn’t compare to Lupi’s, but it’s still good pizza. It’s great to warm up the next day and take to work, she said.
Local resident Bradley Chambers said he and his family love the product, which he finds to be cheaper than a frozen pizza from a grocery store.
“The new Brainerd store is really nice; I will probably use it now rather than the East Ridge one,” he said. "It is much closer for me.”
He said the Hot-N-Ready promotion brought Little Caesars back to the front of his mind. He said he knows Tom and Karol, and supporting the franchise of “really great people” makes the experience even better.
“My son loves their pizza, and the fact I can just drive over there and pick it up, without ordering ahead of time, is also a plus,” he said.
Updated @ 2:50 p.m. on 06/13/12 to clarify Getz's intention for his new downtown location.