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INSIGHTS FROM THE OWNERS: Riko’s back story

Getting the real flavor of a business – especially one as hot as pizza franchising --- is best revealed by the hearing from the people behind the brand. We sat down with Riko's Pizza principles, Rico Imbrogno and Luigi Cardillo and chatted about the Riko’s phenomenon: how it started and the underlying core decisions that impact its development and growth. Here are some tasty bits from that informative conversation.

Q. How did you come to start Riko's pizza?
A. Co-founder, Rico Imbrogno, jokes that Riko's was started ‘by accident.’ It must have been fate knocking when Imbrogno's construction company received an inquiry about opening a pizzeria in a property Rico was renovating in Stamford, Connecticut in 2011. The deal fell through, but the idea of pizza stuck.

"I realized that the busiest, most successful local pizza shop in the area was just making and selling pizza as fast as it could. The service was non-existent. They didn't seem concerned because they had been the most popular pizza place for years. Luigi Cardillo, my cousin and business partner, and I concluded that a friendly, customer-centric approach was missing. Great pizza and great service are two sides of the same coin,” Rico quips. “Why not make going out for pizza as much fun as eating it?"

Q. What did you do that is different?
A. "The right recipes and quality ingredients were just the beginning. Starting with our first venue, we set out to create an inviting, friendly atmosphere.” Imbrogno continues, "We insisted that the family values so ingrained in us; our belief in quality, hard work, and respect for people are as critical to Riko’s success as keeping the pizza hot and the micro-thin crust crispy.

We sourced the best ingredients, defined the basic menu with pizza, wings, and salads, trained our service staff, accepted credit cards and offered delivery. Sounds simple, but our competitors didn't focus on that at the time. And people responded enthusiastically. Today, we maintain a 360° perspective. We are constantly refining our products, processes, and services. It's made our expansion possible and continues to set us apart in the pizza franchise space.”

Q. You’ve said that quality is your highest priority in starting and growing Riko’s
“Quality isn’t a word on a list that you check off and move on to something else,” Riko explains. “It’s fundamental to every aspect of what we do. My mantra is, ‘Take care of the small things and the big things will take care of themselves.’ You establish and maintain quality when you consistently attend to all the details. No detail is too small. You need to be as diligent about the menu, recipes, and the equipment, as you are about the people you hire and the customers’ experience; whether they are coming in for take-out, ordering for delivery or bringing the family in for a pizza night out. It is an on-going principle that makes a Riko’s pizza franchise a well thought out business opportunity.

Q. Why does Riko’s offer only thin crust pizza?
A. "Pizza has been Americans' number 1 favorite comfort food for years. With more than $44 billion in sales, the pizza industry is exploding, notes Rico. Innovative and artisanal flavors and styles are popping up on menus everywhere. It's a huge trend. And everyone wants to be part of it. While I love every style of pizza, we elected to streamline Riko's menu and feature the micro thin crust pizza we grew up with. It's not only a leading trend in pizzas today, but it's an enduring classic that has stood the test of time. While we're constantly tweaking our pies with new flavors and combinations, we're not driven by the super trends that come and go. As Luigi says, ‘A trend is your friend until it ends!' We focus on quality and consistency so Riko's will transcend fads and franchisees can invest in a business prepped for sustainable growth and success."

Q. Riko’s is described as “hyperlocal” and community-minded, how does that play into your franchise model?
A. Part of the secret to the success of our Connecticut locations is our role in the community. We have made it our mission to be part of local family life. We don’t just say we support our local community, we do it. Riko’s sponsors local youth sports teams. We’ve donated hundreds of pizzas to kid’s sports events, and classroom pizza parties. We’ve had pizza giveaways. And we have a rewards program that is our way of thanking customers for their loyalty. Families know us as well as our pizza. We are not just another a huge fast food pizza chain. We build relationships. As we move forward with pizza franchises, we plan to stress a key ingredient: Be local in your location!

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