Rosati's Pizzas key to a successful training program: Consistency
By Meredith Kay


The key to any successful business is consistency. Without consistency, our customers do not know what to expect from us, and we will ultimately lose their trust, and eventually, their business. This is a concept that Marla Topliff, of Rosati's Pizza, understands well, and strives to instill in each and every Rosati's Pizza franchisee. For the past 19 years, Marla has been helping Rosati's Pizza grow and expand. There are currently 160 stores across nine states, with the majority of the properties in their home state of Illinois, and they plan to open 20-30 more franchise restaurants in the next two years.

Marla Topliff, President of Rosati's Pizza  
 photo from
Rosati's Pizza has a rich history dating back to 1927, when Sam Rosati, following in the strong family footsteps of his father, opened his first restaurant in downtown Chicago. Sam's father, Fred, began serving fine Italian food to diners in New York in the late 1800's, before moving his family, and his business, to Chicago at the turn of the century. Since the first Rosati's pizza came out of the oven, Sam, his sons, and his grandsons have carried on this long tradition of serving great pizza and Italian food, with the same careful consistency that have made their restaurants a legacy in the Chicago area. It is this loyalty to their family philosophy that has created an outstanding training program for new franchisees, and will ultimately help Rosati's Pizza to continue their growth well into this new century.

Training in the Rosati's Pizza franchise program begins with the right people
Rosati's Pizza began as a family business, and their first franchisees, so to speak, were other family members. In fact, by 1978, ten different Rosati family members owned Rosati's Pizza locations in and around the Chicago area. Since then, the family has grown to include many franchise owners who are keeping the family traditions alive from Illinois to Texas, and North Carolina to Nevada.

The first step for any potential Rosati's Pizza franchisee is to spend some time at headquarters in Elgin, Illinois. Here, they will spend some time meeting with the Rosati's team, and learning about the family's restaurant history and how it has grown. Following this initiation, the franchisee will then head out to one of the more successful Rosati's Pizza locations for two weeks, and receive, what Topliff calls, "practical, hands-on experience." Franchisees will spend time in the front of the house, and in the kitchen, and they will also be educated on how Rosati's manages to maintain consistency in order to assure brand quality. Once this stage of the onboarding is complete, and both parties are ready to move forward, Rosati's corporate team will help the franchisee find the perfect restaurant location in the chosen market, sign a lease agreement and begin the build out process, while working with the in-house architects and design team. As opening day approaches, the Rosati's Pizza Opening Crew is sent out to help the new owner get through the often stressful opening process.

Although Rosati's Pizza does not interfere with the hiring of new employees at franchise stores, the company does provide a comprehensive training program that franchisees are encouraged to use, so that the right people will receive the most in-depth training in their assigned positions.

"Since we don't own those stores, we really don't get involved with their hiring process." Topliff states, that due to the Joint Ownership in Franchise rules, it is very important to take a step back when franchise owners are staffing their restaurants. However, the company provides all the tools necessary for success to their franchisees, including training manuals for each and every position in the restaurant, as well as constant communication through a weekly newsletter and e-blasts when needed.

Topliff stresses that, "You can't grow unless you learn, and if your employees aren't trained properly, you will fail." It all comes back to consistency. Every employee needs to be trained exactly the same for the same job. "A lot of people think that if you just throw somebody into the kitchen, that he will figure it out, and this simply does not work." A customer must be able to walk into any Rosati's Pizza, in any town, and in any state, and be able to have the same great experience, with the same great food. Your pizza should taste the same in Wisconsin as it does in Iowa, and that will only happen if every franchise owner, as well as every employee, is trained the same.

It is important that employees are trained in YOUR business."

Consistency comes with a well designed system
In order to make sure that each franchise remains consistent with the Rosati's Pizza philosophy, recipes and taste, the company has designed a system that integrates all of the key components to running a successful restaurant. The Rosati's Pizza name is a symbol of quality, and the corporate office takes pride in the recipes that have been handed down throughout the Rosati generations. Each franchise receives, and is trained to adhere to, the Rosati's Pizza Recipe Book. Restaurant cooks are taught to stick to these recipes without deviation. The company then takes it a step further by requiring every franchise to buy food products and ingredients from their carefully selected distributor. Topliff states that, "We pick the products, and they become our Rosati's Preferred Products." Only products listed in the Product Guide can be used, and they must be purchased from the company approved distributor. Topliff further states, "We make sure the nutritional information is correct, and follows the Menu Labeling Laws." Therefore, franchisees are required to use only those products exactly as the recipes state, or the nutritional information will be off, and as of next May, restaurants can be fined if the food does not match the nutritionals.

The corporate office also maintains quality and consistency with their Spot Check Crews. These teams are sent into the field to drop in on franchise restaurants, in order to make sure that recipes are being followed, and that the correct products are being used. This practice, coupled with the company's constant communication with franchisees, is what makes the system work. There is rarely any gray area, with regard to policy, between the company and its franchisees.

Mutual Respect + Communication = A Successful Relationship
According to Marla Topliff, and the rest of the Rosati family, the most important factors in their relationships with their franchisees are communication and mutual respect. With some franchise companies, the corporate office is not always receptive to the opinions and ideas of their franchise owners, and this results in some push back from both sides, causing discord.

Rosati's Pizza franchisees are treated differently. They are considered to be true partners. Topliff states that, "We take a different approach, and we don't shut down ideas from our franchisees. We will sometimes even run tests at various stores, to see if there might be a better way to do something." This is what the true spirit of becoming a franchise partner is all about, and it is working incredibly well for the chain."

Nobody can argue that pizza is here to stay. It is a beloved food in most parts of the world, and Rosati's Pizza is successful because they have over one hundred years of experience with proven recipes that please diners. With valued franchise owners, this is a business that will continue to expand and succeed for many generations to come.

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