U.S. Pizza Co. Welcomes 2017 With Growth

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 12:00 am  

2016 was a good year for U.S. Pizza Co., the nearly 45-year-old homegrown pizza chain based in Little Rock.

The company, founded by Judy Waller in the Levy neighborhood of North Little Rock in 1972, saw sales rise 5 percent last year, said COO Drew Weber. He put the company’s 2016 revenue at $14 million.

And now U.S. Pizza, which officially became a franchising company last February, will see its first out-of-state location, a franchise in Texarkana, Texas. Weber expects the restaurant, operated by Sam Dickens, to open this summer.

That announcement comes on the heels of the news last week that U.S. Pizza will open its first franchised restaurant this summer in Jonesboro, in the Highlands Shopping Center. The restaurant will occupy a 6,000-SF space that was the longtime home of Fuji’s Japanese Steakhouse, which is moving into the space behind U.S. Pizza.

The new restaurants will bring the U.S. Pizza-linked restaurants to 16 — 10 corporate stores, throughout central Arkansas and one in Fayetteville; three franchises, in Batesville, Jonesboro and Texarkana, Texas; and three licensees, in Cabot, Conway and Newport.

“2016 was a really good year for us, to be honest with you,” Weber said. “Our sales were really, really strong. … Companywide, including everybody, we’re up about 5 percent. We were real happy with 2016.”

For U.S. Pizza, the difference between a licensee and franchisee lies in the degree of control. Licensees, Weber said, use the U.S. Pizza name but can modify the menu.

Ester and Hunter McClellan, who own the licensed stores in Cabot and Conway, have been with U.S. Pizza for about 20 years, Weber said. “They met and married here and opened up Conway,” Weber said. “They follow everything we do. We’re in the process of talking to them and turning them into a franchise as well.”

The company prefers the control and brand protection of franchising, he said.

“And as we grow, we want to make sure that everybody’s on the same pace, using the same product. We just want to make sure we ensure the quality. Judy’s had this company for 44 years, and now that we’re starting to branch out, we’ve got to make sure we control the quality.”

So while U.S. Pizza Co. wants to grow, it wants to grow in the right way. “We’re going to do it slowly and make sure we get the right people involved with us,” Weber said. “At this point in time, we’re only offering one-unit franchises to any state that touches us. And then basically once we get to the one-store franchisee and he wants to expand after they’re doing a good job, then we’ll definitely look at that. We want to keep our family tight.”

New Maumelle Location
Also on the horizon is a newly constructed store right on Maumelle Boulevard, which should open sometime next month. It replaces the U.S. Pizza at 650 Edgewood St. in Maumelle.



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