Jim Treliving is an entrepreneur at heart. In the 1960s, he fell in love with Boston Pizza, both for its food and the restaurant itself. The affinity was so strong, in fact, that he decided to leave a solid career as a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer behind him and, in 1968, buy a Boston Pizza restaurant of his own. Then in 1973, George Melville left an equally secure job as an accountant with Peat Marwick Mitchell & Co. to become his business partner. In 1983, they sold their 16 franchises and purchased corporate ownership of the 44 original locations. They eventually franchised out all but one of these.
Today, Boston Pizza stands as the largest casual-dining restaurant in Canada. With more than 340 locations throughout Canada, at which 18,000 employees serve roughly 40 million meals annually, Boston Pizza is more than twice the size of its next largest competitor. In addition, there are 50 locations in the United States and two in Mexico under the name Boston’s Gourmet Pizza.
Treliving and Melville serve as cochairmen of Boston Pizza (which was originally founded by Gus Agioritis in Edmonton, in 1964). The duo comes from a generation where most meals were cooked and eaten at home, and dining out was a rare treat. Today, however, with many families having two full-time wage earners, parents sometimes look to restaurants for meals six or seven times a week.
To fulfill that need, Boston Pizza offers a casual-dining setting with more than 100 menu items, including the signature gourmet pizzas made with hand-pressed dough. The restaurant also serves a variety of pastas, appetizers, salads, entrées, and desserts. Adding to the ambiance, a sports bar provides big-screen TVs, while many locations also have an outdoor summer patio. This combination of offerings generates a great dining experience, and, as a result, system-wide gross sales exceeded $853 million in 2010, while same-store sales growth averaged 4.3 percent annually between 2001 and 2010.
That growth is bound to continue. “We add about 6–10 restaurants a year,” says president and CEO Mark Pacinda. With major markets saturated, the company is looking at airports, universities, and an urban prototype.
“We believe these opportunities will continue to shore up our leadership position as the number-one dining brand in Canada,” Pacinda continues. The company is also looking to expand outside North America and into India, China, and Brazil.
In addition, one year ago Boston Pizza wanted to step up its delivery business. Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign, delivery is now up 20 percent.
The company has earned dozens of awards as a result of its success. The company has been a member of Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies since 1994, and a Platinum Club member since 2003. “We work hard to make sure we have the right strategy and that the business is focused on the right things,” Pacinda says. “We make sure we have the right people in the right job. My tendency is to give [employees] authority and autonomy and get out of the way and let them do their job; then I mentor and encourage them to be successful.”
BY THE NUMBERS
restaurant locations in Canada
restaurant locations in the United States
corporately owned stores
(the rest are franchises)
meals served annually
To keep up with customer wants and needs, an annual usage and attitude survey is conducted with 2,500 people. In addition, in-restaurant advertising encourages customers to go online and answer a quick survey about their most current experience for an opportunity to win a prize. About 100 people fill out the online survey monthly, and individual franchises can log on daily and access their own results.
The company maintains three locations for R&D and training—Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal—and the rest are franchises. A network of 25 field-service managers supports the franchisees, the purchasing-and-distribution group, and the training-and-development groups. Boston Pizza is also heavily involved in social media, with 26,000 fans on Facebook, a Twitter account, and all of its commercials posted on YouTube.
Boston Pizza loves to give back as much as it loves to expand. Its largest philanthropic promotion is on Valentine’s Day, when the restaurants sell heart-shaped pizzas, and one dollar from every pizza sold goes to the Boston Pizza Foundation. Since its inception, in 1990, the foundation has raised more than $12.1 million for three charities: the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, the Kids Help Phone hotline, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Moving forward, Pacinda says that the next generation, which will have been raised on the midscale dining experience, will have higher expectations for healthy alternatives, of which Boston Pizza added eight this year, while maintaining a positive family experience.
“People want to be around their kitchen table but still get a great-tasting meal of value,” Pacinda says.
Based on its success so far, there’s very little doubt that the company will be serving pizza and other great-tasting meals for many generations to come.