Little Caesars is Planning to Take Over America in 2023
Don't judge a brand solely by its name. Little Caesars is anything but a small operation. The chain may be synonymous with its simple but memorable "pizza, pizza!" slogan, but Little Caesars is much more than a catchphrase. Boasting more than 4,000 US locations, it's a major player when it comes to pizza profits, lagging behind only Pizza Hut and Domino's in US sales.
This year saw Little Caesars prioritize international expansion, and next year the pizza brand appears poised to continue entering new markets in pursuit of true pizza world domination. The first Little Caesars location in Portugal will be opening in early 2023, representing the chain's 27th country of operation.
In 2022 Little Caesars also re-entered the UK market for the first time in over 20 years with a new restaurant in Derby. More British locations are planned for next year in London and Liverpool. Meanwhile, in the ever-important Latin American market, the chain opened roughly 100 stores this past year.
Even domestically, Little Caesars is considering expansion in new areas all along the east coast, from Boston to Washington, D.C., as well as the Pacific Northwest, Denver, and certain parts of Florida and North Carolina. On a worldwide scale, potential new opportunities in South America (Chile, Peru, Colombia), Europe (Poland, France, the Netherlands, Germany), and the Middle East (United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait) are all being explored.
In regions where the brand already has a presence, Little Caesars is even using cell phone mapping technology to help determine the best way to infill between pre-existing restaurants!
Jeremy Vitaro, Little Caesars' chief development officer, points to the brand's ability to seamlessly adapt to and move across different markets, existing franchisees' capacity to scale, and strong development management as factors contributing to its recent success.
"Folks from all over the industry that just bring a lot of credibility and knowledge and relationships," he told QSR Magazine, "Bringing those folks in to transform how we develop, how we use technology, [the operators] that we've been able to bring on the franchisee side—again, thanks to the vision that we've laid out and the relationships. I think all of that, I'm really, really pleased with and really proud of. And maybe more specifically a lot of really strong multi-unit deals and groups both on the new and the existing franchisee side really energizing our system."
Little Caesars has also been aggressively pursuing promotional tie-ins. Besides becoming the official pizza sponsor of the NFL this year, the pizza chain also announced a new collaboration with the popular video game franchise Call of Duty just two months ago.
"It enables candidates to see the brand I think in a different light and lets us just communicate to the candidates just how big we are, which isn't always evident," Vitaro says of the promotional tie-ins.
According to Vitaro, Little Caesars prefers to sign multi-unit deals between five to 10 units, depending on the strength of the operator. That being said, Little Caesars wants to be a company where smaller entrepreneurs can sign on for single stores, and will continue providing special opportunities to first responders and veterans. Many of the brand's best franchisees to date started out as single-unit owners before growing to oversee locations in the double digits.
"We want to be progressive and systematic about how we grow," Vitaro comments. "We got to be careful not to be completely opportunistic. We want to go in a logical way, a hub-and-spoke way to continue to build upon the foundation that we've got."
The modern consumer has never been more cost-conscious, and Little Caesars' affordable prices have no doubt contributed to its strong 2022. Its trademark dish is the $5.55 pepperoni pizza, and while inflation did force the price to increase by 55 cents from $5 flat, the pizza now comes with 33% more pepperoni.
The chain also introduced the pizza portal, a locker system for customers to pick up their orders, in 2018, and launched third-party delivery in early 2020. Both of those moves helped Little Caesars endure the pandemic and adapt to the needs of consumers looking for more delivery and pick-up options.
"That combination is changing our consumer base," Vitaro says. "It's letting us play in a larger field and with different consumers that are wanting customization. So what that means for development, I think it's giving us a lot more opportunity to go into new places—even within existing markets—than I had expected."
"I knew we had a lot of opportunity in new markets when I got here, for example, the Northeast is a big new area for us, but I didn't realize how much opportunity there was in existing markets," he continues. "And we need to do things differently. We need to continue to emphasize digital and delivery particularly in those areas, but it's just a lot of opportunity as long as we continue to get it right."