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OMAHA, Neb. -- Godfather's Pizza, a pizza franchise serving the convenience store industry, has unveiled a new national headquarters campus here, featuring a state-of-the-art "virtual c-store" in its research and development (R&D) facility.
The 24,000-square-foot complex incorporates offices for the company's corporate employees, a Godfather's Pizza's test kitchen, training facilities, a sensory room and a production studio for photographing products and shooting TV commercials. But the centerpiece of the new facility, according to Godfather's Pizza's CEO Ron Gartlan, is the "virtual c-store," which allows the R&D and training staff to test recipes and preparation techniques in space designed to simulate convenience store conditions.
"We recreated a c-store setting in our new R&D facility to help us design products and procedures that will succeed in the challenging conditions unique to convenience stores, truck plazas and airport foodservice settings," Gartlan said. "We believe this is a unique facility in the pizza business."
Godfather's Pizza c-store outlets have been designed to be flexible and to operate out of as little as 200 square feet, said Bill Methven, senior vice president and manager of nontraditional franchise sales. "With our new 'virtual c-store,' we can be sure our c-store franchisees provide their customers with the unique taste and quality Godfather's Pizza is known for, even in the smallest, most difficult layouts, and with procedures that are simple enough for hourly staff to execute consistently."
Godfather's Pizza c-store franchisees, who toured the new R&D facility for the first time at a VIP reception in Omaha, appeared to like what they see.
"Godfather's Pizza has become the fastest-growing and highest-gross margin brand in our portfolio of foodservice concepts," said Steve Oliver, director of food services for Amerada Hess Corp., which operates 600 c-store outlets throughout the East Coast. "We congratulate Godfather's Pizza on their new R&D facility and the commitment they've made to the success of their c-store franchisees."
Mike Herman, director of convenience store operations and travel stores for Love's Travel Shops and Country Stores Inc., echoed this reaction. "Godfather's Pizza's new R&D facility, and their focus on the needs of c-store and truck plaza operators, shows why they have been such a hit at Love's," Herman said. "Our locations, on average, hit 70-percent gross profit margins, and we have seen little, if any, cannibalization with our other branded QSR offerings -- which is the mark of a strong foodservice brand."
Godfather's Pizza said its new headquarters -- designed with room for 20 percent growth -- positions the 33-year-old company for continued success in the c-store industry, as well as other nontraditional operations, such as schools and airports.
Keeping their finger on the pulse of consumer preference was another objective of Godfather's Pizza's new facility. The new sensory rooms allow the company to test new products and preparations with consumers. Taste-test subjects arrive through a separate entrance and are served through sliding panels without seeing how the product is prepared, to prevent an influence on their reactions.
"One of the things we value is feedback from customers, and this is just one method for getting it," Gartlan said. "Such research has kept Godfather's Pizza in touch with changing consumer tastes. Young consumers, for example, prefer their sauce to be spicier or have more bite, and aren't afraid to try new combinations of ingredients."
Today, Godfather's Pizza has 137 franchisees, which operate approximately 600 franchise locations across the country, ranging from traditional pizza restaurants to non-traditional locations in c-stores, airports, truck plazas and schools. Approximately half of all Godfather's Pizza's restaurants are located in these nontraditional locations.