Running a successful franchise is not always an easy task, but Pizza Nova franchisee Jawaid (Joe) Said has accomplished it on three occasions.
This summer, Said opened his third location with the pizza chain in Courtice, Ont.
The long-time entrepreneur spoke with Canadian Business Franchise about how his previous experience as a manager helped prepare him for business ownership. He also shared how the company provided exceptional support during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Canadian Business Franchise (CBF): Did you always envision yourself as an entrepreneur? If not, what were your career aspirations?
Joe Said (JS): At first, I wanted to be a pilot. Then, throughout high school, I worked at various franchise restaurants as a manager. I worked hard to gain experience, always aiming to one day be an entrepreneur. Becoming a franchisee is a great way to run your own business and have the support you need at the same time.
CBF: Why did you choose franchising?
JS: I chose franchising because I believe it is the best way—you have support to be successful, and if you are passionate, you can take it to the next level. My experience as a manager at franchise restaurants certainly had an impact on my decision.
CBF: How did you discover this franchising opportunity? What drew you to this business?
JS: I had worked at various pizza restaurants when I discovered Pizza Nova. After working at a Pizza Nova location for a couple of years, it became clear to me this was a premium company that goes above and beyond the competition. I worked hard to stay because the culture and values were a great fit for me.
CBF: When did you buy your franchise?
JS: I currently own three locations. I bought my first in April 1999, my second in 2015, and my third location opened this past July. Since the first and third locations were brand new, I had to go through interviews at the company’s head office. I received so much encouragement from the team there. They helped me through the process. I was approved because of my previous experience working in the industry.
CBF: What was involved in opening your franchise?
JS: The locations are built by Pizza Nova and are ready to go when you take on the franchise. Before the store opens, there are up to eight weeks of training at one of the corporate locations. The head office support team offers guidance in terms of advertising and hiring strategies. The first stock delivery also comes in from the Pizza Nova commissary, which includes all the products you need for opening.
CBF: Describe your opening day.
JS: The opening day requires a lot of preparation. From cutting all the vegetables to getting the dough ready, mixing pizza sauce, shredding cheese, and making pizza boxes, there is a lot to manage. Plus, it must all be done the “Pizza Nova way,” so customers get the best-quality food possible. On opening day, we were proud to partner with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Durham and raise money with a special offer. All proceeds went to charity, and the grand total for the day was $3200. A musician was also on-site to entertain customers while they waited for their fresh, hot pizza.
CBF: Describe a typical day of running your franchise.
JS: The first thing that needs to be done upon arrival at the store is to make sure the ovens are at the right temperature. Then, it is time to start making pizza slices. There are many different ones to make each day: gourmet pizza, whole wheat, carbon dough, and more. Once the slices are made, we track the time for each pizza, as we want to make sure only the freshest slices are on display. Monitoring the cleanliness of the rest of the restaurant is also very important.
We verify all the doughs are properly proofed and ready to be made into pizzas. We then prep vegetables, cheese, and sauce to make sure we have enough freshly prepared elements for the lunch and dinner rushes.
We must also be sure the schedule is accurate, and we have enough staff, depending on the day. We need enough employees on hand, so things run smoothly, and customers are satisfied.
We monitor everything happening in the restaurant throughout lunch and dinner, to guarantee the pizza is cooked the way a customer wants it, and deliveries are timely, so the pizza is as hot and tasty as possible.
CBF: Do you feel your educational background helps in your day-to-day tasks and overall business decisions?
JS: Yes, my education has helped me a lot. Running a franchise involves a lot of paperwork, inventory, balancing work, and attention to customer satisfaction—among other things. School showed me how to adapt to change, be responsible, and learn to multitask. Of course, it also gives a young person maturity.
CBF: What have been some of the highlights and challenges of running your franchise?
JS: In the last few years, because of the pandemic, we have faced a few challenges. It has been more challenging to find staff. Another issue has been the lack of stock due to supply chain delays. Despite these obstacles, the highlight is still serving our customers, putting smiles on their faces, and bringing families together with great food.
CBF: Is there anything unique about your market?
JS: Our market considers Pizza Nova a premium-quality pizza place above the rest of the competition. We give customers great quality and consistently good pizza, compared to other franchises in the market. Our customers are loyal. Some have been with us since we opened. First-day customers still come back again and again for good pizza.
CBF: How do you make your franchise stand out amongst other pizza restaurants in the market?
JS: It is a very tough, competitive market. Pizza Nova has the best quality and consistency—which translates into customer loyalty.
CBF: How has the business evolved since you started?
JS: We have built a strong customer base with the first franchise opening 23 years ago—and we get new customers every day. When we opened the new store, our customers already had great experiences receiving quality pizza from our other locations. Overall, our business has gone way beyond our expectations and is continuing to grow, thanks to our community, staff, friends, management, support office, and family.
CBF: How did COVID-19 impact your franchise?
JS: The pandemic hit our business hard at the beginning. It was rough time. The Pizza Nova head office was 100 per cent behind us … they helped us get through COVID and continue to do so. I owe a special thanks to the president, Domenic Primucci, as he was there for us when we needed him the most. The company quickly developed a different strategy through contactless payment and deliveries, as well as prepaid pickups, which helped our customers feel more comfortable and safer when ordering pizza. Thanks to those services, our business slowly picked back up to pre-COVID volumes.
CBF: What are your future plans?
JS: Our future plan is to keep doing what we are doing to give our customers the best-quality pizza, and to offer great service by always raising the bar higher than the day before. We plan on gaining more success every day, and this is thanks to the people who support us in every possible way.