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September 22, 2020 | QSR Magazine | Original Article

Donatos Pizza, the fast-casual pizza chain once owned by McDonald’s and famous for its Edge-to-Edge toppings, has announced its commitment to open more restaurants in the Nashville area.

With two corporate-owned restaurants already serving area pizza lovers—one in Midtown which opened in 2016 and the other which opened a year later in Murfreesboro—Donatos is looking to add as many as five new restaurants to its local footprint in the next several years. The expansion will be carried out through franchising and target the entire metro area.

This next wave of expansion will occupy approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial real estate and create as many as 200 new jobs.

“We have experienced great success in the market as demand for our product has grown,” said Jeff Baldwin, Vice President of Development & Franchising for Donatos. “Each part of Nashville—whether it’s Brentwood, Franklin, Clarksville or beyond – provides an opportunity to serve the hospitality and delicious pizza that has become synonymous with the Donatos name. We look forward to forging deeper connections over a slice and growing within the community.”

Baldwin also noted that Nashville’s revitalization efforts and growth are no doubt what makes the area ideal for additional Donatos restaurants. “Nashville continues to be one of America’s fastest-growing cities and presents a perfect opportunity for Donatos to expand its customer base.”

Donatos was founded in 1963 when Ohio State sophomore Jim Grote bought a small pizza shop in Columbus, Ohio from a young seminarian for $1,300. The company was classified “Best in Class” and acquired by McDonald’s Corporation in 1999, at a time when the fast-food giant was extending its reach beyond burgers. A few years later when McDonald’s started divesting itself of its ancillary restaurant brands, Grote and his daughter, Jane Abell, bought back the company in 2003.

Donatos’ famous golden crispy thin crust pizzas—made with aged smoked provolone cheese (not mozzarella) and Edge to Edge toppings—have made the family-owned company a favorite in the Midwest and beyond. Pizzas come in four sizes—7”, 10”, 12” and 14”—and a variety of combinations. Customers can order the pizza that put Donatos on the map – a large thin crust pepperoni pizza with 100 pieces of pepperoni on it—or one of more than 10 signature pizzas on the menu that include the Founder’s Favorite (pepperoni, family-recipe sausage, ham and banana peppers) and the Chicken Spinach Mozzarella™ (sliced chicken breast, fresh baby spinach, fresh Mozzarella cheese, Roma tomatoes, roasted garlic, olive oil and Romano Parmesan blend).

Donatos also offers 26 premium toppings for customizable pizzas.

Other menu items include cauliflower crust and gluten-free pizzas, as well as fresh salads, oven-baked subs, and boneless or traditional baked chicken wings that are available naked, sauced or dry-rubbed.

Donatos offers dine in, pick up, delivery, and catering services.

“A lot goes into making pizza and making it great—fresh, super-premium toppings, inventive and unique flavor combinations, and the ability to customize to your heart’s content. But, at Donatos, it’s not just about the pizza. It’s bigger than that. It’s about bringing people together, strengthening friendships, enriching peoples’ lives and helping them have fun,” said Spence Sheldon, whose family owns and operates two Donatos restaurants in nearby Bowling Green. “Life for us and our customers is richer with Donatos.”

The Nashville expansion announcement comes at a time when Donatos continues to aggressively expand it national footprint. Today, Donatos is proudly served in 227 traditional and non-traditional locations across the country, more than one-third (88) of which have been added in the last three years alone.