Monday, December 29, 2008

Gidget Goes Straw Hat Pizza- Cool Calendar

What a great way to kick off the new year, with a trip down memory lane and the good old days of Gidget, Moondoggie and "The Twist."

Thanks to the just-published Straw Hat Pizza Calendar, Californians who grew up riding the surf - and all of the rest of us Midwesterners, Easterners and Southerners who aspired to lead the California lifestyle, can "remember when," each month we flip the calendar pages.

The calendar tracks some of the highlights from the time Straw Hat Pizza opened its doors in 1959 in San Leandro, CA

Guess what the price of gas was at the time?

25 cents.

A bottle of Coca-Cola was just 1o cents; a pound of coffee was just 77 cents... And you could buy a house for $30,000.

And, Barbie made her debut as an American icon, right about the time Straw Hat opened its doors. Other highlights: "The Twist" became the newest dance craze.

As Straw Hat approaches it's 50th birthday, the chain is growing and plans to continue to support and embrace the communities that made it what it is - an awesome place to grab a pizza and make new memories with friends, family, colleagues and teammates!

Now, folks can join the Straw Hat eClub at www.strawhatpizza.com.

Groovy

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

California’s Favorite Pizza Meets America’s Favorite Candy Dispenser

Straw Hat Restaurants Launches Sweet PEZ Holiday Deal for Diners

Ho, ho, ho…Santa’s got an extra gift this holiday season for Straw Hat diners. Despite tough economic times, Santa and his team are turning Straw Hat’s 58 stores into a “Candy Land” thanks to a special promotion where children, young and old, will receive a legendary PEZ holiday dispenser with every purchase of a kid’s meal.

In the spirit of holiday gift traditions, beginning this week, Straw Hat fans of the iconic PEZ candy will find a Santa, Reindeer, Snowman or Polar Beer in their Straw Hat Kid’s meal. And, for an extra $1.99, they can purchase one of the collectible cartoon dispensers – from Disney characters to Marvel comic heroes, currently the rage on E-Bay where millions of PEZ fans tout themselves as PEZ –Heads.

“This is an exciting opportunity for us to bring an American icon into our restaurants at a time when we’re also celebrating five decades of popularity among our loyal pizza customers,” says Jonathan Fornaci, president of Straw Hat Restaurants. “We’re trying to offer value and quality to our customers, especially at a difficult economic time when the ‘special’ things are being pulled away. Americans love PEZ candy and we’re excited to bring this gift to our customers this holiday season.”

Indeed, the promotion unites two American culture and culinary icons: In 2009, Straw Hat is celebrating its 50th anniversary. At the same time, this premiere pizza and restaurant chain is planning a robust expansion across the western and southern states.

Similarly, for more than 80 years, PEZ Candy has been an integral part of American popular culture and continues to be enjoyed by generations of people. Known for its cartoon-head dispensers, PEZ has become a mega collectible item popular among kids and adults alike.

With the addition of chocolate last summer, PEZ now offers 13 flavors of its familiarly shaped candy tablets. Popular flavors include: grape, cherry, raspberry, lemon and orange. THE most popular character: Santa Claus, the premier character for the Straw Hat promotion. The character is PEZ best-seller of all time. “We’re excited to bring PEZ to Straw Hat because their customers are exactly the audience who appreciates the fun that can be found in these novelty candy and toys in one,” said Keith Whitaker, marketing director for PEZ. “It’s fun to partner with another American favorite – pizza.”

In coming months, PEZ plans to introduce several new assortments, which Whitaker says they plan to promote at Straw Hat as well. They include: The Wizard of Oz, Toy Story characters for the re-release of the movie; a Hello Kitty collection and Star Wars.

Enter zip and hit... 1/21/2011 California’s Favorite Pizza Meets Ameri… About Straw Hat Restaurants Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of 58 locations in the Western United States. The franchise recently was awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD) and awarded “hottest franchise” by America’s Hottest Franchise.

About PEZ Candy, Inc.
An integral part of the American scene for approximately 50 years, PEZ Candy continues to be enjoyed by generations of Americans. PEZ was first marketed as a compressed peppermint candy over 80 years ago in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ was derived from the German word for peppermint...PfeffErminZ. Today, over 3 billion PEZ Candies are consumed annually in the U.S.alone.PEZ Candy is manufactured in Orange, Connecticut by PEZ CANDY, INC. and marketed through supermarkets, mass merchandisers, variety stores, drug stores, convenience stores, toy chains and gift stores throughout the U.S. and in more than 60 countries across the globe.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ten Reasons a Restaurant Franchise is a Good Investment in this Economy.

Franchise Promises Success in Shaky Economic Times


With the labor market now the worst it’s been since the two prior recessions in 2000 and the early 1990s, and record numbers of people being laid off, a California-based pizza franchise offers a path for entrepreneurs to rise above the financial slowdown.

Straw Hat Pizza and Restaurants is building a road-map of success for aspiring business owners, despite these shaky economic times. Poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary next July, the chain plans to nearly double in size to more than 100 restaurants by the end of 2009 expanding nationally to Arkansas, Arizona, Nevada and beyond.

“For the recently unemployed and others hoping to escape the financial meltdown and push through without missing a beat, our kind of franchise offers a potential course of success,” says Jonathan Fornaci, president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation. “It also is empowering to be taking part in business growth and knowing you are doing what you can to ease the unemployment crunch.”

Here are ten reasons a restaurant franchise is a good investment in this economy:
1.    Franchises typically do better tough times. Franchise businesses historically fare pretty well in good economic times, but also in slower economic times. Franchises have learned how to survive in tough markets and even profit during times of recession.

2.    Takes ownership of your future. Best part: as your own boss, you won’t get laid off.

3.     Boosts your income.  Starting a franchise turns owners into an entrepreneurial change maker. Because a franchise comes with a fully-developed business model that has already proven successful in a number of different places and under a number of different circumstances, there’s a good deal more security than any other kind of entrepreneurial endeavor.

4.    Invests in a recession-proof American staple.  Most franchises have a fully-developed track record that instills instant faith and is one of the kinds of businesses that many professionals consider recession-proof.  Restaurant franchises especially are favorable during tough times, because Americans still spend on affordable dining.

5.    Leverages big business marketing. When a business is associated with a franchisor they get help in corporate marketing.

6.    Focuses your hard work on businesses with solid infrastructures. In bad economic times, it’s a good idea to focus on a tried-and-true brand and not a good idea to hop onto anything that looks like a fad.

7.    Greens your business by investing in your local community. Prospective owners can look at the value local franchise restaurants can be, as typically they are community-based hubs that provide an inexpensive meal and a respite for families in hard economic times.

8.    Offers job and career opportunities. Recessions intensify corporate lay-offs, making franchise ownership an attractive opportunity for those seeking new jobs and income.

9.    Provides training and start up support.  A major advantage is that franchises provide training and management services for the property. Because a franchise has a vested interested in the success of each operation, the corporation provides all the necessary training and helps with day-to-day decision making.

10.    Offers competitive advantages and helps secure funding.  Franchises typically offer lower royalty and advertising fees over their traditional restaurants. And, they help prospective owners secure funding for the purchase.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Fun Foodstuffs: SH Recipe of the Stars!!!

Here's some exciting news. Check it out: Straw Hat's Caramelized Onion Pizza was recently featured as the menu of the week on a popular women's social networking site: www.BettyConfidential.com.

Now mom's across the country can serve up Straw Hat to their kids.... Let's just consider that an appetizer to the real thing - bringing the kids INTO a Straw Hat and experiencing all the excitement of these community hubs.

What's for Dinner?
Straw Hat Pizza
Turn Your Kitchen into a Pizzeria!

Straw Hat Pizza, makers of the original "California pizza" serves up a recipe for Caramelized Onion Pizza to get the whole family involved.
Here's a quick meal your family will love. It's one that is a rotating special for the Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Grill eateries in California, where the original California pizza was born almost 50 years ago. One secret: The chain's chefs insist that Monterey Jack, not Mozzarella is the way to go, with a little dash of Fontina cheese to add that extra burst of flavor.
This pizza can be cut into squares to make a great appetizer for parties. It should be made with a light serving of the cheese blend and can be served with no cheese for a lite, healthy alternative.
Ingredients (dough):
1 (.25 ounce) package dry yeast1 cup warm water (110 degrees)2 cups bread flour2 tablespoons olive oil1 teaspoon salt2 teaspoons white sugar
Directions (dough):
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Beat well until stiff dough has formed. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
3. Turn dough out into a well-floured surface. Form dough into a round and roll out into a pizza crust shape.
Ingredients (cheese blend):
4 ounces shredded Monterey jack 2 ounces shredded mozzarella1 ounce shredded Fontina cheese
Ingredients (pizza topping):
¼ cup olive oil for frying onions6 cups thinly sliced onions (approximately 3 pounds)6 garlic gloves3 Tbs. fresh thyme of 1 Tbs. dried thyme1 bay leafsalt & pepper2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil for dribbling on top of pizza1 Tbs. drain capers1-1/2 Tbs. pine nuts
Directions:
1. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil and add the onions, garlic, thyme and bay leaf.Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated and theonion mixture is very soft, almost smooth, and caramelized, about 45 minutes.Discard the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cover the pizza shaped dough with light amount of the cheese blend, the onion mixture, sprinkle with capers and pine nuts, and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
3. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. The baking time will vary depending on whether you bake on a stone, a screen or in a pan. Be sure that your oven is well pre-heated before putting pizza in the oven.
Photo source

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rising Above Finance Slowdowns

From Crittenden's Restaurant Insider.

Keep an eye on well-capitalized brands to push through the credit crunch without missing a beat.  
Straw Hat Restaurants Inc. (SHP) plans to nearly double in size by the end of 2009 with roughly 42 units in the pipeline.  The 58-unit company will add a mix of traditional Straw Hat Pizza locations, as well as its newer Straw Hat Grill and cost efficient Straw Hat Express.  California sandwich brand Submarina California Subs strives to open another 20 units by year’s end.  Long-term plans call for 2,500 units in the next 10 years.  Look for Ker’s WingHouse to open four to six units next year, of which half will be franchise locations.  McAlister’s Deli hopes to open 50 units in 2009.  Look for the concept to break into Salt Lake City, Columbus, Ohio, Lexington, Ky., and Washington, D.C.  Woody’s Bar-B-Q aims to open at least one unit a month for the next year or so.  Plans for 2009 call for 12 to 18 units.  

Could fear be what’s killing deals before they ever even reach the lender?  With the DOW Jones hot and cold, many restaurant brands may want to sit this round out till things turn around.  Don’t be surprised to see a few restaurant players take the opposite approach.  Look for some brands to be prepared for when things get better with more locations and better real estate deals.  With the current debt market negatively affecting the entire U.S. economy, it’s becoming harder to find restaurant brands that aren’t seeing the fallout.  The bottom line:  Financing is still out there but the restrictions have tightened and timeframes are more drawn out.  An average SBA loan is now taking three to six months to get approved.   SHP raised cash from a private placement stock offering and is able to lend short-term loans to franchisees.  The idea is that these bridge loans will help franchisees start construction right away while waiting for an SBA loan to go through.  SHP helps franchisees get open in only three months, which is especially important because it saves a vast amount of money that is spent on rent during construction.  

Submarina works with Diamond Financial and U.S. Bank and helps franchisees through the process.   The company is fortunate to have low buildout costs ranging between $225K and $250K and franchisees are still able to get loans with just 20% down.  CEO Mimi Zeller believes Submarina is in a good place due to its access to funding but notices that some companies are tightening up and requiring more collateral.  Ker’s WingHouse sees LTV ratios changing.  Lenders with portfolios weighed down with restaurants are raising the bar to require more down that can be up to 50% or more of the investment.  On the other hand, lenders with very few restaurant clients may still be getting deals done with only 10% to 30% down.  VP of Franchising Tom Dunn notices that many regional banks, like M&I Bank, are well capitalized with an appetite for lending.  Corporately, Ker’s works with Wachovia and Bank of America, and although it’s costing a little more to get deals done, the financing is still out there.  McAlister’s  also sees regional and local banks dominating the current lending market, while the company still uses  GE Capital Franchise Finance and Irwin Franchise Capital for corporate growth.  Woody’s recognizes that its 29 years of relationships with banks keeps its two national SBA lenders willing to close new deals.  The company finds the credit situation to be the same for new Woody’s units.  

Look for SHP to enter some new markets with units in the works for Arkansas, Florida, Texas and The Carolinas.  President Jonathon Fornaci is confident that the company will pass its goal of 100 units by 2009 instead of his original projection of 2010.  Once the company is up to 100 franchise units, Fornaci plans to file for an IPO.  SSS are up YTD.  SHP recently rolled out a pasta program along the lines of  Pizza Hut but with superior quality noodles and newly created sauces.  Pasta dishes run $14.99 for a huge three-and-a-half pound serving.  A family size salad and/or a medium pizza can be added on for only  $5 each, helping extend more value to consumers.  An average SHP runs from 3,500 s.f. up to 5,000 s.f. and freestanding pads and end caps work best.  Most locations do about two-thirds of its business from dine-in guests with the balance coming from takeout and delivery.  Grill units fit into 4,000-s.f. to 5,000-s.f. freestanding pads but end caps can also work.  Fornaci prefers lifestyle centers and locations with strong business lunch demographics and a cross between business and family/residential at dinner.  Express units will range between 1,200 s.f. to 1,500 s.f. with incredibly low startup costs starting at $75K up to $100K.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Famed Tales from the Frontlines: Guess Who Came to Dinner at Straw Hat?

It’s always intriguing to me when I go to a restaurant and there is a buzz about all kinds of celebrities that have passed through their doors. So, I decided to ask the Straw Hat owners to name the rich and famous who have been drawn to Straw Hat’s warm, welcoming ambience, and it’s down home cooking style.

It turns out; Straw Hat has its very own who’s who in the celeb world. In coming months, we’ll give you a sneak peak at some of the rich and famous who have passed through and are regular Straw Hat diners. And, please since we don’t have paparazzi chasing Hollywood types down in our parking lots, let me know of any high-profile types you may have spotted enjoying the original California pizza.

Makes you wish there was recycling back then and napkins were washed and kept for framing, when you realize that Thomas Kinkade, America’s most-collected living artist, ate many a pizza at the Rancho Cordova, near his boyhood home of Placerville. Turns out when the 50-year-old painter was in his teens, he would come into the Straw Hat and draw cartoons on napkins. His dad, who worked at the eatery back then in the ‘70s, would downplay his son’s talent, so we’ve been told.

Well, in the wish I could eat my words category, today, Thomas Kinkade’s art is said to be found in one out of every 10 American homes.

Coming from a modest background, Kinkade emphasizes simple pleasures and inspirational messages through his paintings. As a devout Christian, Kinkade uses his gift as a vehicle to communicate and spread inherent life-affirming values.

It was while growing up in the small town of Placerville, California that these important values were nurtured. It was also during this time that Kinkade began to explore the world around him. He spent a summer on a sketching tour with a college friend, producing the best-selling instructional book, The Artist's Guide to Sketching. The success of the book landed the two young artists at Ralph Bakshi Studios to create background art for the animated feature film Fire and Ice. It was also during this time that Kinkade began to explore light and imaginative worlds with abandon.

After the film, Kinkade earned his living as a painter, selling his originals in galleries throughout California. In 1982, he married his childhood sweetheart, Nanette, and two years later they began to publish his art. Today the couple has four daughters: Merritt, Chandler, Winsor and Everett, all named for famous artists.

Perhaps this famous hometown boy will accept our invitation to our upcoming 50th anniversary bash.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Talk About Loyal Customers!!!

At the Straw Hat Pizza, 3001 Delta Fair Boulevard in Antioch, California, you can find a woman who has eaten at least three meals a week there for more than three decades. You will find she orders a pepperoni pizza, with salad bar, every Friday. You will also discover that the guy painting the parking lot is also the owner, and you will find that he’s been hanging out at Straw Hat, since he was eight-years-old and his dad and he would stop in their for a “soda” on Saturdays when they were doing errands. You can find out what it means to order a “Genuine California Pizza.” And, you will probably discover that one of the big, strapping guys inhaling a large pizza could be one of three professional football players who have been frequenting this pizzeria since their youth sports teams celebrated after-game victories.

Go to the Antioch Straw Hat and see life unvarnished, unexpurgated, in need of Garlic Parmesan Groovy Sticks, or a “Meat-E-OR” pizza.

“It’s my second home,” says Josephine Aiello, 64, the three-times-a-week regular. “We always go there, my daughter, my brothers, all week long and then for special occasions like our birthdays.”

Owner Sal Listek says “Josie is an institution.” “All our regulars know they can count on seeing her in the same seat, ordering the same pepperoni pizza every Friday.”

There was, as still is, a buzzing about the place, a consoling murmur of conversations that are familiar for decades, explains Sal, who today owns three Straw Hat locations in Antioch, Brentwood and Discovery Bay. The soda kid who came in with his dad, became a bus boy at Straw Hat in the 1970’s and today puts his own three kids – Jared, 12, Caitlin, 11 and Megan, 7, to work busing tables when they ask dad for extra cash.

He listens to a lot of conversations, but since he has heard the same ones for years, he does not listen too closely. Some of the long-timer diners were and are employees of Rowley International Inc., a major pool manufacturer.

“We’ve got two ladies who meet here two or three times a week since before 1990 when we were in another location,” says Listek. “They just moved with us.”

Indeed the Antioch Straw Hat is the community hub, a place where sports teams and townspeople have been gathering for decades. So who are the jock-looking football players who you’ll sometimes spot hanging out here? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Straw Hat Expands Pizza Chain, Launches Second Straw Hat Grills Brand in Fremont, CA

Chain’s New Straw Hat Grill to Open in Fremont, CA with Grand Opening Thursday, September 25, 2008

As part of its rapid growth initiative, Straw Hat Pizza is opening one of its new-concept restaurants, called Straw Hat Grill, in Fremont, CA with a grand-opening celebration Thursday, September 25, 2008. Once touted as California’s largest pizza chain, Straw Hat is aggressively ramping up again, planning to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations to 100, from 45 by 2011.

Restaurant franchising industry veteran Chandru Gurnani is bullish on this new grill concept that adds pasta, steak, ribs, burgers and salads to the traditional Straw Hat pizza fare. He’s bringing his more than 23 years experience to drive the franchise growth, and create Straw Hat Grill into a stand-out eatery and cutting-edge concept in the restaurant industry.

Unlike competitors where fare is fried, everything at Fremont’s new Straw Hat Grill is created from fresh ingredients. Gurnani himself handpicks produce from the Farmer’s Market; sauces are homemade and the 100 percent Angus beef is fresh, never frozen.

"We’re more wholesome than a Chilies or Applebee’s,” Says Gurnani, who has owned 14 Taco Bells, 7 Hardy’s, 4 Burger Kings and was named “Guest Service Hero,” during his tenure at Jack-in-the-Box.

The new-concept eatery is located on a busy thoroughfare in the rapidly growing Bay area city of Fremont at 39350 Paseo Padre Parkway. Formerly a Pizzeria SFO, it has been extensively remodeled and includes a full-service bar, deli counter and sit down service.

"Straw Hat Grill caters to the local community including families and businesspeople," said Jonathan Fornaci, the new president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon, who was brought on board in January to encourage rapid growth.

“Everything we serve is freshly prepared and healthy,” says Gurnani. “We’re using locally grown produce and we make our own signature aioli, BBQ sauce and guacamole unlike others who use foodservice sauces.“

Straw Hat Grills will be located exclusively on the West Coast, as will the 55 or so new Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations. Fornaci said the company is negotiating for it’s first-ever restaurant in Oregon and is also scouting sites in Washington and British Columbia, as well as in its existing strongholds of California and Nevada.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

Called Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation, the company is not a typical franchisor, but a cooperative made up of each Straw Hat pizza restaurant owner. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner has a real say in his or her company’s future, and the Cooperative was recently awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD) and awarded “hottest franchise” by America’s Hottest Franchise.

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008. For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Straw Hat Pizza Case Study: In Shaky Economic Times, California Franchisor Rides the Wave of Success to Significance

Pizza maker to open 50th store, boasting 30 percent growth in last six months

San Ramon, CA - July 23, 2008 In a shaky economy, as more people interested in running a business turn to franchising, California pizza maker Straw Hat Pizza is boasting a built-in road-map to success, one that has driven business growth up 30 percent in the last six months to 52 stores from 38. By September, the chain plans to have 55 stores.

Poised to celebrate its 50th birthday, the chain is growing rapidly in the midst of a recession. Straw Hat plans to more than double in size, increasing its locations from 52 to over 100 by 2010, and expand from California, Nevada and Oregon to Washington, Arizona, Texas and beyond. What’s more, it has recently added a two new concept restaurants called Straw Hat Express and Straw Hat Grill, and plan to expand that to targeted cities and states on the West Coast. The new-concept “Grills” expand the pizza menu to the next level, featuring typical sit down-eatery fare such as pasta, steak, ribs, burgers and pizza.

“During economic slumps like this, we offer a lot of benefits for those downsized from corporations who are looking for jobs and income,” says Jonathan Fornaci, president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. who was brought on board in January to encourage rapid growth.”We also offer a great opportunity to take the family for dinner at an affordable price at a time when families are cutting back on their discretionary spending. This allows them to have something fun and affordable to look forward to..Fornaci says the company's pizza restaurants are geared to the nuclear-family demographic of parents and children, as well as gatherings of youth sports groups, business lunches and hot, fast delivery.

Looking for a Slice of Success? Consider The Straw Hat Recipe

There are several lessons for success that can be gleaned from the Straw Hat growth spurt for others to consider as impetus to take the franchise plunge:

1. Straw Hat is in growth mode. The chain, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this coming year and is known for its “signature” genuine California pizza, offers the enticement of being on board with a winner. It’s a brand prospective franchise owners may want to invest in because unlike many franchises, locations are not too close together eliminating the threat of brand saturation.

2. Serving up an American food staple. Nothing says American food consumption quite like pizza. A recent Gallup Poll shows children ages 3-11 prefer pizza over all other foods for lunch and dinner. And, Parade Magazine reports that 94 percent of the population of the U.S. eats pizza. As the country gets pinched by a recession, pizza is a product unlikely to go under in a downturn. At Straw Hat, a family of five can come in and dine on a large pizza, appetizer platter and five sodas for less than $30. Also, pizza is easy to prepare and yield‘s a relatively high profit margin.

3. Solid History. In bad economic times, it’s a good idea to focus on a tried-and-true brand and not a good idea to hop onto anything that looks like a fad. In its 50 years, Straw Hat has gained public recognition and has a proven track record. Being an established franchised system and independent franchisee organization it offers invaluable assistance and advice to prospective owners.

Hot new concepts are great, but there is no evidence or track record to show how the business will do on an economic roller coaster. Straw Hat prospective owners can look at the value these community-based hubs have brought for more than five decades, especially their value in hard economic times – a place for townsfolk, families and sports teams to gather to have a good time at a low cost.

4. Offering Job and Career Opportunities. Recessions intensify corporate lay-offs, making franchise ownership an attractive opportunity for those seeking new jobs and income.

5. Brand-specific advantages of a Straw Hat Franchise:

• Traditional restaurant franchises charge between 10 to 12 percent royalty and advertising fees. Straw Hat charges significantly lower royalty and advertising fees.

• Straw Hat also does not mark up the cost of food; it is sold at the same price to franchise owners.

• Franchise fees are $25,000 and the average initial investment to open one unit ranges from $200K to $500K for a Straw Hat Pizza or Grill and $100K for a Straw Hat Express.

• Straw Hat works with local banks and financing companies to help franchisees find SBA loans.

• Average pizzeria size: 3,500 to 5,000-sq.ft. for a Straw Hat Pizza or Grill.

• Average Express Size: 1,200-sq.ft.

About Straw Hat Pizza Franchise, “a most cooperative franchise.”

Franchisees pay royalties to the franchise and in return, receive marketing materials, advertising, operations and quality control support, significant deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by Straw Hat Pizza.

Each franchisee has a real say in his or her company’s future. The Franchise was recently awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD) and awarded “hottest franchise” by America’s Hottest Franchise.

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," and is comprised of numerous locations in the Western United States. We’re poised for rapid growth in the United States and Canada. Plans call for a total of 100 pizzerias and Grills in 2010, which more than doubles the existing operations today.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactUs and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Every Day is Pizza Day

Dishing It Up: Fun Facts about Pizza- The American Pie


In my house, with my kids, the hands-down favorite food is pizza. Whenever I ask if the kids want to order out, and what they want, the collective cry rings out from three bedrooms, or sometimes IM’d to me via computer: “PIZZA.”

So, to justify our family habit, I was thrilled when one of the Straw Hat Pizza owners sent over some fun facts about pizza that point to our family’s consumption and validate that we are just like every other American family (well, on the pizza front that is).

It’s no secret Americans think the secret to living a longer, healthier life is indulging daily in their favorite food – pizza. According to Parade Magazine, 94 percent of the population in the U.S. eats pizza.

But did you also know that Americans eat about 350 slices of pizza each second, or 100 acres of pizza a day?

Here are some interesting facts about pizza some of our Straw Hat pizzeria owners have collected.

Might be fun to serve some of these up to customers. Hey, being a bit of a pizza “food” snob is a healthy way to sell the fact that pizza shouldn’t be saved for special occasion and that every day is a good day to indulge in our favorite we-deserve-it food.


· 94% of the population of the U.S. eats pizza. (Source: Parade Magazine.)
· Pizza is a $30 billion industry.
· In the U.S., there are about 61,269 pizza parlors.
· Pizzerias represent 17% of all restaurants. (Source: Food Industry News)
· 93% of Americans eat AT LEAST one pizza per month. (Source: Bolla Wines)
· Each man, woman and child in America eats and average of 46 slices, (23 pounds), of pizza per year. (Source: Packaged Facts, New York)
· Saturday night is the biggest night of the week for eating pizza.
· Three of the top 10 weeks of pizza consumption occur in January. Another pizza fact: More pizza is consumed during Super Bowl week than any other week of the year. (Source: Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill.)
· Everyone in the United States eats about 23 lbs., or 46 slices, every year.
· Each year in the United States, 3 billion pizzas are sold.
· In America, the most popular ethnic food is Italian.
· Children ages 3-11 prefer pizza over all other foods for lunch and dinner, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
· 36 percent of all pizza orders want their pizza topping pepperoni.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Straw Hat Dangles Pizza In Newly Launched Video Contest

From MediaPost's MarketingDaily.

by Laurie Sullivan, Monday, May 19, 2008 5:00 AM ET

Straw Hat Pizza wants to know: "How does pizza fuel your sport?" The cooperative for the pizza chain launched a contest last week that ends July 1, asking consumers to create a 30-second video clip that answers the question.

Posting the video on Google's YouTube provides the ticket to enter the contest. Consumers can find the rules and an application at strawhatpizza.com. Consumers can vote for their favorite video once daily through Aug. 1. Straw Hat will announce winners Aug. 15. A panel of judges will take the YouTube viewer ratings into account to select semifinalists and the winner, who receives the Deluxe Sports Package Grand Prize.

The package includes pizza for a year, a hosted suite for 12 people at the Giants/Dodgers game Sept. 26, donated by Coca-Cola; an AWOL surfboard; Titan skateboard; and Straw Hat Pizza skateboard courtesy of Titan Skateboards.

One or more of the top videos submitted in the YouTube contest could end up in an advertisement set to run on television and in select movie theaters. Slated for later this year, pre-show ads in movie theaters will run through National CineMedia, a digital in-theater advertising joint venture between AMC Entertainment, Cinemark, and Regal Entertainment Group.

The pre-show cinema ads will likely hit theaters about the same time a campaign focused on family movies rolls out in Straw Hat restaurants. Jonathan Fornaci, president of The Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative, has been working to seal a deal either with Sony Pictures, Paramount or Fox Searchlight to offer pizza, soft drinks and DVD movies for $30. The movies, rated G to PG-13, could include "Open Season 2," "Spiderman" and "Perfect Holiday."

Fornaci was brought in six months ago to remake the company. He says the goal to increase same-store sales and grow store cooperatives from 38 in January 2008 to more than 100 by 2010 relies heavily on marketing and promotions. All will have a family theme, since Straw Hat Pizza restaurants are geared toward family and local events such as football, soccer and baseball Little League teams supported by schools and communities.

The cooperative manages promotions and marketing for the entire Straw Hat chain, giving guidance on rolling out store-specific campaigns. This year, consumers will see more billboards, television commercials, online ads and banners, and marketing and ads in movie theaters.

Straw Hat has undergone a transformation in the past 49 years since its birth in 1959. About 100 franchise locations banded together to retain brand and trademarks in 1986 when Marriott sold eight branded chains to Saga. They formed the cooperative organization that Fornaci was hired to rebuild.

The strategy taps traditional marketing, too. About 100,000 emails are sent to customers monthly through the company's loyalty and feedback programs. Billboards aim to create awareness.

A "Guaranteed Fresh" stamp will soon appear on marketing material and pizza boxes alongside the California Real Cheese logo. Fornaci, who worked in high-tech for years in ventures tied to Stanford University and GE Capital, says the effort is similar to Intel's "Intel Inside" campaign to let consumers know they bought a computer with an Intel chip inside. "We'll start at the store and take the message out to blogs and online banners before going into more traditional advertising," he says.

Straw Hat recently hired chief blogger Mary Beth Sammons to drum up a little buzz. The mom of three teens weaned on pizza provides creative insight intended to boost social media efforts and keep consumers informed of community news. Looking at the phenomena driving community, Sammons says many consumers in their 60s have interesting stories to tell after frequenting the restaurant for nearly 50 years. "Straw Hat is like the Starbucks of small towns," she says.

Laurie Sullivan can be reached at sullivan@mediapost.com.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Straw Hat Do-Gooders

When they're not busy serving up heart-healthy  pizzas, it turns out Straw Hat owners are on the frontlines of their communities figuring out how to give to those in need.

Recently, Olga Sehhat, owner of Straw Hat Pizza in Rancho Cordova, CA, played an integral role in an outpouring of generosity from the community towards a Folsom boy recovering from aplastic anemia, a life-threatening blood disorder that is a rare form of leukemia.

The story made headlines when Brandon Burkey's Make-A-Wish gift, a big-screen TV, was stolen from his bedroom. And thanks to do-gooders like Olga, Burkey is smiling these days. A group of Northern California Best Buy owners rallied and installed and mounted a new 42-inch Samsung TV for Brandon. Girl Scout and Brownie troops replaced his X-Box and X-Box games, and Olga, all but guaranteed Burkey's possessions are safe from now on when she purchased a state-of-the-art security system for the Burkey household.

It's always inspiring to read about ordinary people connecting to help each other.

Love to hear more Straw Hat stories. Please send them my way at:
marybethsammons@aol.com

Monday, April 21, 2008

Straw Hat Pizza Serves up a New Twist to Traditional PR Campaigns with a Cutting-edge Approach to Social Media

New Chief Blogger to Strengthen Straw Hat’s online reputation

Good news, Internet savvy pizza lovers. Straw Hat is serving up a fresh heaping of PR with Internet goodness. And what’s the new item on the menu? Why it’s this: Straw Hat has named Mary Beth Sammons as the company’s first Chief Blogger.

A mom of three teens who were weaned on pizza, Sammons will provide oversight and creative guidance for Straw Hat’s blog, becoming the eyes and ears for everything exciting and inspiring happening inside the Straw Hat community and in the world of pizza.

The blog is being launched in an effort to boost the company’s social media presence and to keep pizzeria owners and customers in the know to what is going on. As the chief blog writer, Sammons will listen to customer feedback and share ideas and tips related to Straw Hat’s new locations, customers, new recipe items and news about its employees and customers. The blog is designed to show how Straw Hat is making a difference on the landscape of the pizza industry and in the lives of the people in the communities where the cooperative is rapidly expanding.

"We’re committed to growing Straw Hat and staying on the cutting-edge of what it takes to get the buzz going about our dynamite cooperative," said Jonathan Fornaci, president of The Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative. "We want to bring the stories that matters to our communities and the news media with an authentic voice and look at the important goings on."

"I am really excited to take this job on because blogging is something I'm obsessed with," said Mary Beth. "Like so many people, I am a nut about pizza. It’s great that Straw Hat is active in the blogosphere – it gives us a chance to get our message out there and to hear what people have to say to us in return. I also know that families and communities need trusted gathering places like Straw Hat. It’s an honor to be able to surface the stories that make it so special and unique."

About Mary Beth

Meet Mary Beth. She's a busy member of the "Sandwich Generation," caring for her three children and parents, and a successful career woman trying to juggle it all with grace and gusto. To thrive and survive – like so many parents, Mary Beth relies on pizza-to-the-rescue for her family on the go. In this blog, Mary Beth will serve as Straw Hat Pizza’s eyes and ears online, listening to customer feedback and sharing ideas and tips related to Straw Hat pizzerias. Plus, she’ll surface the compelling stories from the frontlines.

To contact Mary Beth, write to her at marybethsammons@aol.com.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Straw Hat to Expand Pizza Chain, Launch Straw Hat Grills Brand

Chain’s First Straw Hat Grill to Open in Barstow, CA with Grand Opening Wednesday, April 16, 2008

As part of its rapid growth initiative, Straw Hat Pizza is debuting its new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in Barstow with a grand-opening celebration Wednesday, April 16, 2008. Once touted as California’s largest pizza chain, Straw Hat is aggressively ramping up again, planning to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations to 100, from 45 by 2011.

The new-concept, 5,500-square-foot eatery is substantially larger than the average Straw Hat Pizza location at 4,000 square feet. But it will largely retain the same emphasis on family and a community gathering spot for great food.

"The Straw Hat Grill will cater to both the local community and traveling families and business travelers," said Jonathan Fornaci, the new president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon, who was brought on board in January to encourage rapid growth. He said the new restaurant, which he compared to Chili's Grill and Bar or T.G.I. Friday's, will feature typical sit down-eatery fare such as pasta, steak, ribs, burgers and pizza. Fornaci said Barstow was chosen as the initial location because it is the halfway point in the busy travel corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it sits at the junction of busy Interstates 15 and 40, and the town of Barstow is a family oriented community. Families and business travelers are looking for a restaurant with great quality food in a wholesome, fun environment.

Located just a half-mile from his existing, Straw Hat Pizza location at 1930 E Main St., this is Jeff Eason, and his wife, Linda’s, second Straw Hat operation in Barstow. Adjacent to the Ramada Inn at 1505 E. Main St. the Grill is designed to bring a more upscale eatery to Barstow’s restaurant offerings. In addition to table-service dining, a full bar, and room service for guests at the adjacent hotel, the Grill expands the Straw Hat menu to include more ribs, steaks and pastas in addition to the signature pizza.

"We want customers to walk in and say WOW," says Eason, who has completely renovated the restaurant and added many upgrades to the existing building.

The company is also negotiating to open a Straw Hat Grill in Fremont later this quarter, one of 10 eventual locations, according to Fornaci.

Straw Hat Grills will be located exclusively on the West Coast, as will the 55 or so new Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations. Fornaci said the company is negotiating for it’s first-ever restaurant in Oregon and is also scouting sites in Washington and British Columbia, as well as in its existing strongholds of California and Nevada.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation is unique in that every restaurant owner is a shareholder in the cooperation, building equity from the first day of investment. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties – estimated to be one-third less than a typical franchise - to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner also has a real say in Straw Hat’s future, which is gaining widespread attention in the industry. The Cooperative recently was named as one of America’s Hottest Franchises for 2008 and awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

The company operates on a business model that is a cross between franchising and a traditional partnership. The core restaurants are run by cooperative owners who become shareholders in the cooperative after paying a fee of $25,000. Individual store owners are able to vote on company matters, including selecting the five-member board of directors, and share in company profits, which are distributed at the end of the fiscal year.

Today, Straw Hat Pizza is about to celebrate its 50th birthday and the chain is prepared to rapidly move in the other direction. The Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon plans to more than double in size, increasing its locations from to 100 from 50 by 2011, and expand from California and Nevada to Oregon.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Straw Hat Pizza appoints new President

Jonathan C. Fornaci has been named president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corp., which oversees Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Grill operations in the United States and Canada.

Previously, Fornaci was the founder of IMG Universal, a real-estate development, retail and mortgage broker company headquartered in Walnut Creek, Calif. He co-founded Atomic Tangerine and was chief operations officer for several San Francisco-area companies including Provato, an enterprise software-development company, and IBIS Consulting Inc. Fornaci also served as chief technology and information officer for GE Capital/Genstar, where he managed technology and operations for 10 GE Capital divisions.

As Straw Hat’s president, Fornaci’s mission is to grow same-store sales and expand the number of Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Grill locations throughout the United States and Canada.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

From globeinvestor.com.

Business Wire -- Straw Hat Pizza was named one of the "hottest franchises" when America's Hottest Franchises (AHF), a show celebrating the best and brightest franchise opportunities presented its inaugural awards on its pilot show.

"Winners of the coveted award came from a wide range of industries, but all met and exceeded the selection criteria set out by the AHF review board," said the show's host Dara Lopata. "Nominees for this award were judged on a myriad of criteria including, but not limited to marketing programs, responsiveness during the investigation process, financing assistance and growth potential."

Having made the debut roster of recipients, Straw Hat will lead the pack of award winners who will be honored each month and featured on the America's Hottest Franchise Web site (www.americashottestfranchises.org). DVD copies of the show can be sent to potential franchise owners.

"Straw Hat is in major growth mode," says Jonathan Fornaci, recently-appointed president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation who said he was brought on board in January to forge rapid growth. He added that the company plans to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations from 45 to 100 by 2011. It also will debut a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in April in the Southern California town of Barstow.

Straw Hat Pizza is a traditional family restaurant focusing on pizza, oven-baked sandwiches and a fresh salad bar. Being a cooperative corporation means that franchisees are part owners of the entire corporation. The Straw Hat Cooperative offers a growing and proven system, with easily implemented procedures, and arguably the best pizza anywhere.

The America's Hottest Franchises show is available to view on the show's website www.americashottestfranchises.org.

About America's Hottest Franchises

America's Hottest Franchises realizes that prospective business investors face an endless sea of information from the many franchise opportunities. Attending tradeshows brings a flood of voice mails, direct mail pieces and e-mails. With all the dollars spent on marketing it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which franchises offer the best opportunities for success, and which ones simply have huge marketing budgets. The organization provides an independent analysis of franchise opportunities for potential franchise buyers to help them cut through the clutter.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation is unique in that every restaurant owner is a shareholder in the cooperation, building equity from the first day of investment. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties - estimated to be one-third less than a typical franchise - to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner also has a real say in Straw Hat's future, which is gaining widespread attention in the industry. The Cooperative recently was named as one of America's Hottest Franchises for 2008 and awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

The company operates on a business model that is a cross between franchising and a traditional partnership. The core restaurants are run by cooperative owners who become shareholders in the cooperative after paying a fee of $25,000. Individual store owners are able to vote on company matters, including selecting the five-member board of directors, and share in company profits, which are distributed at the end of the fiscal year

Today, Straw Hat Pizza is about to celebrate its 50th birthday and the chain is prepared to rapidly move in the other direction. The Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon plans to more than double in size, increasing its locations from to 100 from 50 by 2011, and expand from California and Nevada to Oregon. The chain recently debuted a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in the Southern California desert town of Barstow. The 5,500-square-foot eatery is substantially larger than existing 4,000-square-foot eateries an in addition to the signature pizza expand the menu offerings.

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008. For more, go to www.strawhatpizza.com.

© Business Wire

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Straw Hat Pizza Awarded

Straw Hat Pizza was named one of the "hottest franchises" when America’s Hottest Franchises (AHF), a show celebrating the best and brightest franchise opportunities presented its inaugural awards on its pilot show.

"Winners of the coveted award came from a wide range of industries, but all met and exceeded the selection criteria set out by the AHF review board," said the show’s host Dara Lopata. "Nominees for this award were judged on a myriad of criteria including, but not limited to marketing programs, responsiveness during the investigation process, financing assistance and growth potential."

Having made the debut roster of recipients, Straw Hat will lead the pack of award winners who will be honored each month and featured on the America’s Hottest Franchise Web site (www.americashottestfranchises.org). DVD copies of the show can be sent to potential franchise owners.

"Straw Hat is in major growth mode," says Jonathan Fornaci, recently-appointed president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation who said he was brought on board in January to forge rapid growth. He added that the company plans to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations from 45 to 100 by 2011. It also will debut a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in April in the Southern California town of Barstow.

Straw Hat Pizza is a traditional family restaurant focusing on pizza, oven-baked sandwiches and a fresh salad bar. Being a cooperative corporation means that franchisees are part owners of the entire corporation. The Straw Hat Cooperative offers a growing and proven system, with easily implemented procedures, and arguably the best pizza anywhere.

About America’s Hottest Franchises

America’s Hottest Franchises realizes that prospective business investors face an endless sea of information from the many franchise opportunities. Attending tradeshows brings a flood of voice mails, direct mail pieces and e-mails. With all the dollars spent on marketing it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which franchises offer the best opportunities for success, and which ones simply have huge marketing budgets. The organization provides an independent analysis of franchise opportunities for potential franchise buyers to help them cut through the clutter.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

The Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation is unique in that every restaurant owner is a shareholder in the cooperation, building equity from the first day of investment. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties – estimated to be one-third less than a typical franchise - to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner also has a real say in Straw Hat’s future, which is gaining widespread attention in the industry. The Cooperative recently was named as one of America’s Hottest Franchises for 2008 and awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

The company operates on a business model that is a cross between franchising and a traditional partnership. The core restaurants are run by cooperative owners who become shareholders in the cooperative after paying a fee of $25,000. Individual store owners are able to vote on company matters, including selecting the five-member board of directors, and share in company profits, which are distributed at the end of the fiscal year.

Today, Straw Hat Pizza is about to celebrate its 50th birthday and the chain is prepared to rapidly move in the other direction. The Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon plans to more than double in size, increasing its locations from to 100 from 50 by 2011, and expand from California and Nevada to Oregon. The chain recently debuted a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, in the Southern California desert town of Barstow. The 5,500-square-foot eatery is substantially larger than existing 4,000-square-foot eateries an in addition to the signature pizza expand the menu offerings.

President Jonathan Fornaci discusses The Straw Hat Pizza franchise opportunity.


Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008. For more, go to www.strawhatpizza.com.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Straw Hat to expand pizza chain, launch Straw Hat Grills brand

From San Francisco Business Times.

Straw Hat to expand pizza chain, launch Straw Hat Grills brand

Straw Hat Pizza, once California's largest pizza chain before dramatically shrinking in size two decades ago, is preparing to rapidly move in the other direction.

Jonathan Fornaci, the new president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corp. of San Ramon - who said he was brought on board in January to encourage rapid growth - said the company plans to more than double in size, increasing its Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations from 45 to 100 by 2011. It also will debut a new-concept restaurant, called Straw Hat Grill, on April 1 in the Southern California desert town of Barstow.

The company is also negotiating to open a Straw Hat Grill in Fremont later this year, one of 10 eventual locations, according to Fornaci. He said the new restaurant, which he compared to Chili's Grill and Bar or T.G.I. Friday's, will feature typical sitdown-eatery fare such as pasta, steak, ribs, burgers and pizza. Fornaci said Barstow was chosen as the initial location because it is the halfway point in the busy travel corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, it sits at the junction of busy Interstates 15 and 40, and it is a freight rail hub.

At 5,500 square feet, it will be substantially larger than the average Straw Hat Pizza location at 4,000 square feet. But it will largely retain the same emphasis on family dining as the pizzerias.
"The Straw Hat Grill will cater to both traveling families and business travelers," said Fornaci, adding that his company's pizza restaurants are geared to the nuclear-family demographic of two parents and two children, as well as gatherings of youth sports groups. And the new restaurant won't include the usual complement of party rooms and video games to be found at Straw Hat Pizza sites.

Growth will be funded by fees paid by the new franchisees, said Fornaci, who may also seek loans from banks and the Small Business Administration. He added that he hopes to open an average of one restaurant a month, starting in Sacramento next month. He would not discuss annual sales figures for the privately owned company.

Straw Hat Grills will be located exclusively on the West Coast, as will the 55 or so new Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Express locations. Fornaci said the company is negotiating for its first-ever restaurant in Oregon and is also scouting sites in Washington and British Columbia, as well as in its existing strongholds of California and Nevada.

The company operates on a business model that is a cross between franchising and a traditional partnership. The core of 45 restaurants are run by franchise owners who become shareholders in the cooperative after paying a fee of $25,000.

Individual store owners are able to vote on company matters, including selecting the five-member board of directors, and share in company profits, which are distributed at the end of the fiscal year.

The 45 restaurants are what's left of a chain that once boasted about 400 locations throughout California and neighboring western states as late as the mid-1980s. Fornaci said the coop owners, who were franchisees in the original Straw Hat chain, opted out of a sale of the parent Saga Corp. to Marriott International Inc., which converted hundreds of Straw Hat locations to the Pizza Hut brand in 1986.

They have zealously held on to the Straw Hat brand in ensuing years, maintaining several dozen locations throughout California and the Reno-Sparks area of northern Nevada. Though a few new Straw Hat Pizza locations have begun opening again, including a 6,700-square-foot showcase in Sacramento, Fornaci was hired by a five-member board of directors eager to return Straw Hat to at least a measure of its former prominence.

Fornaci, a former corporate executive-turned entrepreneur who opened the first four-star restaurant in Costa Rica, loves to get out of the office at least once a month to help make pizzas in the Straw Hat trenches. He also speaks glowingly of the fresh ingredients and preparation of the "genuine California pizzas" that he contends sets his brand apart from at least some of the competition. "Many places today use dough 'balls' to make crust, or they are pre-made at another location," said the Walnut Creek resident, who oversaw a number of technology startups during his earlier career. "We make the crusts and prepare the toppings fresh in our restaurants. And we have no absentee owners. Most of the time, you can walk into a Straw Hat Pizza and meet the owner."

Despite the high energy and hands-on approach of the new president, Fornaci may have a major challenge doubling the size of the present company, according to Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago restaurant industry research and consulting firm. "The pizza segment is a very mature market and the biggest companies, Pizza Hut and Domino's, have struggled in recent years to grow," Tristano said. "Zpizza and RedBrick Pizza (Worldwide Inc.) are doing well to some extent because they are selling a better-quality product, and there are still opportunities out there, especially for regional players with from three to 25 locations. "A new or growing company has to look at saturation in the industry and they have to become a relevant brand to consumers. I think doubling the number of restaurants in three years may be a bit too optimistic. Maybe five to 10 years is more realistic." Tristano said the company's foray into the casual dining segment with Straw Hat Grills will only work if the restaurants are located in busy areas and also appeal to not only travelers, but local residents, too.

Straw Hat Cooperative Corp.
Business: Operator of pizza and casual dining restaurants
Headquarters: San Ramon
Founded: 1959


President: Jonathan C. Fornaci 
Address: 18 Crow Canyon Court, San Ramon 94583

Phone: 925-837-3400
For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

dgoll@bizjournals.com | 925-598-1436

Monday, March 10, 2008

Straw Hat Pizza Cooks Up Excitement for New Store Recently Opened in Natomas, California

Straw Hat Pizza opened their third restaurant in the Sacramento area and first-ever in Natomas.

This 6,411- square foot location at 4441 E. Commerce Way in North Natomas will be the first one in the area with two private banquet halls – complete with large, wide-screen TVs and designed for sports team banquets, off-site business meetings, family events and other community gatherings.

There’s also an arcade room with old-fashioned pin ball machines, plush toy cranes and video games. Entertainment includes Karaoke every Friday night from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Straw Hat has a bountiful salad bar, a variety of lunch combination deals including pasta, sandwiches and its signature "genuine California pizza", unrivaled with a layered, flaky crust, the freshest toppings, light sauce, and several kinds of naturally aged cheese. Straw Hat's California creation is unlike any other pizza. It is crisper, tastier, and fresher, lighter, and served with a variety of unique toppings.

Store owner Clark Rupp, chairman of the Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation Board says the new store is an ideal community gathering place for local sports teams, business lunches and family celebrations.

Jonathan Fornaci, president of Straw Hat, says the chain is “very excited” about the opening of this store and adds that Straw Hat is always looking for new locations to reach people that it may not have served in the past.

"There's a lot of growth happening (for us) in the area," Fornaci says.

For reservations call: 916-515-1515 Store hours: Sun.-Thur: 10:30 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday: 10:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

Book reservations in advance for the banquet halls which accommodate up to 70 people.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

Called Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation, the company is not a typical franchisor, but a cooperative made up of each Straw Hat pizza restaurant owner. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner has a real say in his or her company’s future, and the Cooperative was recently awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Straw Hat Pizza Unveils New Leadership to Poise Organization for Continued Growth

Jonathan C. Fornaci Appointed President to Bring Laser Focus on Growth

Jonathan C. Fornaci was named president of Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation, which oversees Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Grill operations in the USA and Canada, to head a leadership team directly responsible for executing the company’s growth and transformation agenda.

Fornaci brings significant global operations experience having developed and built premium brands while serving as CEO of several international technology start-ups. His experience also includes senior management and ownership in the restaurant industry, including the acclaimed Restaurante Vida in Lima, Peru. Fornaci’s appointment is designed to focus the organization on providing customers with a superior Straw Hat Pizza experience and build on its legacy as the originator of "Genuine California Pizza."

As Straw Hat’s president, Fornaci’s mission is to grow same store sales and expand the number of Straw Hat Pizza and Straw Hat Grill locations throughout the United States and Canada.

Previously, Fornaci was the founder of IMG Universal, a real estate development, retail and mortgage broker company headquartered in Walnut Creek, CA. He co-founded Atomic Tangerine, and was Chief Operations Officer for several Bay Area companies including Provato, an enterprise software development company, and IBIS Consulting, Inc. which was sold to Proxicom. As chief technology and information officer for GE Capital/Genstar, he managed technology and operations for ten GE Capital divisions. He started his career at Accenture.

With a focus on rapid global expansion, Fornaci will leverage the chain’s strength and experience to showing the consistency of vision and values over the years and to capture the sense that Straw Hat Pizza can carry the community spirit of gathering it had back then, now and into the future.

"Jonathan brings a history of instilling a superior experience for customers and at the same time of exceeding the customer expectations, driving the business growth of the organization," says Clark Rupp, Chairman of the Board. "We are very excited to have him on board."

A graduate of UC Berkeley, Fornaci is currently a Director for Meals on Wheels and formerly a Chairman of the Board for Security Portal. A frequent keynote speaker at global conferences and summits including the United Nations, and the International Branding Council, Fornaci resides in Walnut Creek, CA.

About Straw Hat Pizza Cooperative Corporation

Called Straw Hat Cooperative Corporation, the company is not a typical franchisor, but a cooperative made up of each Straw Hat pizza restaurant owner. Each restaurant represents one share of ownership. Members pay royalties to the cooperative and in return, receive marketing materials, better deals with suppliers, and ingredients and packaging manufactured by the cooperative.

Each owner has a real say in his or her company’s future, and the Cooperative was recently awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD).

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of numerous locations in the Western U.S. and is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. and Canada during 2008.

For more information please visit: strawhatpizza.com/contactus and please follow us on Facebook & Twitter @StrawHatPizza.