Donatos Pizza: Every piece is important
December 11, 2021
“To serve the best pizza and make your day a little better.“
In 1963, Jim Grote spent the grand sum of $1,300 to buy the original Donatos located on the south side of Columbus, Ohio. He had some pretty strong values, such as treating others the way he would want to be treated, creating a top-of-the-line product, and hiring the absolute best people for the job. He wanted to make great pizza and make his customers’ day a little bit better.
The first Donatos Pizza franchise opened in 1991 in Zanesville, Ohio. In 1999, McDonald’s bought Donatos in an attempt to enter the pizza industry. However, in 2003, Jim Grote and his daughter Jane Grote Abell repurchased Donatos, and McDonald’s returned its focus to the business of hamburgers. During this period Donatos also had operations in Munich, Germany. By 2019, there were more than 100 Donatos Pizza locations in eleven states, and today, there are 242 locations in various U.S. states.
In 2018, Donatos partnered with Red Robin to sell pizzas in their restaurants. By 2020 Donatos was in 25 Red Robin restaurants, with plans to expand into 100 additional Red Robin restaurants in 2020 and another 150 per year in 2021 and 2022. Donatos makes its secret-recipe dough in Ohio and ships fresh dough to Red Robin restaurants all over the country, where the pizzas are made in the exact same way they would be made in a Donatos.
Donatos is known for its thin crust pizza, especially its large pepperoni pizza that includes 100+ pepperoni slices.
In 2004 Donatos introduced its take-and-bake pizza in Kroger supermarkets. In 2015, for the particularly health-conscious crowd, they introduced NatureCrust, a 10” organic, non-GMO, vegan, multi-grain crust.
Not in the mood for pizza? No problem, Donatos also offers oven-baked subs, freshly made salads, chicken wings, and desserts.
They are also known for the spicy pizza called mariachi beef and mariachi chicken pizza, served with sour cream.
In 2013, Jane Grote Abell—the Chairperson of Donatos and daughter of its founder Jim Grote—went undercover on the CBS reality show Undercover Boss. In the show, she posed as a contestant on a reality TV show who was trying to win money to open her own Donatos restaurant. Unfortunately, Abell’s cover was blown in the first few minutes of her undercover job by the manager of the store who immediately recognized her. The manager agreed to keep her identity a secret for the purposes of the show.
In 2015, Abell released a book entitled The Missing Piece: Doing Business the Donatos Way, in which she tells the Donatos story and offers leadership insights.
Communications and Marketing
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