The quick-service pizza industry has long been dominated by four powerhouses competing the top spot as the biggest seller of a cheesy slice.
Little Caesars falls at number three, proving it's not so little, and Papa Johns has maintained fourth place for the past six years.
Another player is nipping at their heels, however. Riding a wave of record sales growth, Marco's Pizza has been rapidly expanding with a mission to make it to the top.
The pizza chain will soon open its 1,100th store in Dundee, Fla., and plans on achieving its goal of 1,500 stores by the end of 2023—putting it at a competitive edge with Papa John's 3,100 locations soon.
Marco's has more than 200 stores in various stages of development across the country and a 12.8% increase in year-over-year footprint. The chain has been recognized on Restaurant Business' 2021 Top 10 Fastest-Growing Chains list and jumped 20 spots this year on Entrepreneur's Highly Competitive Franchise 500 over last year's ranking.
Marco's growth is spearheaded by franchisees. They are mostly multi-unit operators who've rigorously expanded their locations.
"The brand has a superior product, a sophisticated development team, and vast whitespace across the country. This, paired with its record-breaking growth, made now an opportune time to double down on my investment because while the 1,100 is a cherished milestone, Marco's will be at 3,000 stores in no time," said seasoned franchise owner Kal Gullapalli, owner of 36 Marco's restaurants, including the recent milestone location.
An intense focus on expansion hasn't been the only thing the company has been up to. Marco's has been working on making strides on its digital front as well. The company has invested in an AI voice-to-text ordering, automated delivery times, and integration with third-party delivery services. A wise choice considering Domino's reported that its failure to use services like DoorDash and Uber Eats resulted in weak sales last quarter.