By David F. Rooney
Jeff and Jeanie Weston and their son Nathan had high hopes when they bought their Little Caesars franchise seven years ago. But now, no matter how they slice it, their business is toast at the end of May.
“We purchased it with our son Nathan and ran it as a family business,” Jeannie told The Current. “Our plan was to build it up then sell after five years. Unfortunately the economy has made it difficult to sell and now our franchise agreement is coming due and requires us to sign for another 10 years. Nathan has since chosen another line of work (he now works as a Red Seal carpenter in Fort MacMurray) and both Jeff and I have decided that this is not what we want to be doing for the next 10 years.”
They did a terrific amount of business in their first couple of years at 200 First Street West. They had seven employees serving customers and grossed $460,000 in their first year. But the economic contraction since 2008 hurt them badly. And now they’re getting by with reduced hours and just three employees one of whom goes home early. And where thy might once have had 10 Hot-n-Ready pizzas ready to go, now they only have one or two.
It’s not as though business has collapsed. It hasn’t. But there is stiff competition in the local pizza market and while Little Caesars pizza remains the most economical in town — particularly their Hot-n-Ready pizzas — the actual cost of producing them has gone way up. What’s more, if they’re not sold within 30 minutes Little Caesars policy requires them to toss them in the garbage.
“All our costs have gone up but we’re still selling them at $5.95,” Jeff said in a Wednesday morning interview. “We can’t keep bleeding forever… but when is the economy going to pick up?”
Little Caesars still does a pretty good business with children and teens, and it has cornered the market as far as pizza sold to schools is concerned, largely because it is the only place in town that meets school guidelines on trans-fats, Jeff said.
So the Westons made the difficult decision to not renew their franchise for another 10 years. Jeff will continue working for the CPR and Jeannie will continue working as a bookkeeper.
“We have so appreciated the many faithful customers we have had the pleasure of serving over the years and will miss their faces, though we will be sure to see them around town,” Jeannie said. “We are not leaving, just changing our focus. Thanks again Revelstoke for supporting us!”
In the meanwhile, they’re encouraging everyone who has a Little Caesars gift card to use them before May 31 or, after that date, use them at any franchise elsewhere in the province.
The irony is that someone could probably do well with the business if they purchased the equipment and ran “a Mom-and-Pop operation,” Jeff said.
But he and Jeannie can’t do it because when they purchased the franchise from the previous franchise holder they had to sign an agreement that prevented them from competing in this market with another pizza business. But they’ll gladly sell all of their equipment for a reasonable price.
Natale Stagliano who owns the building Little Caesars is in said he hopes someone will see the potential of a Mom-and-Pop pizza business in that location. It’s a great location and everyone knows it. The right approach could make someone very successful, he said.
Whoever does decide to purchase the Westons’ equipment and rent the space at First and Connaught really can make a go of it, particularly if they take advantage of the programs and seminars that the Chamber of Commerce puts on, such as the Turbo Charge your Retail Business seminar it is conducting next Monday. Click here to learn more about that.