Slice of Success: A Candid Conversation with Donatos President, Kevin King

In the ever-evolving world of franchising, success isn't solely about the legacy of the past but also about a brand's ability to adapt and innovate for the future. Donatos Pizza is synonymous with excellence in the pizza industry and epitomizes this resilience. Kevin King, President of Donatos Pizza, recently sat down to dive into his remarkable journey, the evolution of Donatos, and the exciting outlook for the remainder of 2023 and beyond.

From Pizza Enthusiast to Franchising Visionary

Kevin’s journey in the restaurant industry began as a kid, when his first job was at a pizza restaurant. His career later took him to Domino's, where he honed his skills in operations before finding his way to Donatos. Kevin has spent his whole career in the restaurant industry but was ultimately captivated by the nature of franchising. “Being in business with franchise partners is extremely rewarding because you get to work with entrepreneurs who are incredibly passionate about their businesses. These are people who want to make a real impact,” Kevin reflects.

Kevin was initially drawn to Donatos in 1990 because of Jim Grote's philosophy of having a purpose and values while still building a successful business. Donatos offered something deeper and more meaningful than just a competitive edge—a genuine commitment to a purpose. At the core of Donatos is our three-part mission—to make the best pizza, hire excellent people, and foster goodwill in the community.

Evolving with the Brand

Kevin's extensive experience from 1990 to 2003 at Donatos has prepared him well for his current role. While Kevin briefly left Donatos in 2003, our team's balanced leadership, new perspectives, and distinctive experiences ultimately convinced him to return. “Many people on this team have been with Donatos for many years, and some have returned to the brand with new ideas and extensive experience in the industry, while others are brand new,” Kevin states. “I believe this diverse blend is a great combo for building future success.”

Kevin also emphasizes how his own leadership style has evolved at Donatos. “Observing others and seeing what works and what doesn’t enables you to incorporate positive elements into your own approach,” Kevin notes.

With Donatos celebrating over 60 years in the pizza industry, Kevin highlights how we have evolved too. “While the fundamentals of success—great people, great products, and great service—remain consistent, technology has reshaped how we achieve these things,” Kevin states. Automation is rapidly transforming the restaurant space in response to labor challenges, and new innovations like third-party delivery are also really changing the industry. “By implementing automation, it is less about how we can save labor and more about how we can improve efficiency and consistent product quality for our customers and franchise partners,” Kevin adds.

At Donatos, we are currently implementing automation tools like a pizza saucer machine and pepperoni machine and streamlining the delivery process to help franchise partners achieve higher profitability.

Today, Donatos benefits from our diverse leadership team's ability to incorporate these evolving changes and leverage the benefits of technology. “Having experience in the same industry for decades offers lots of perspectives and ideas for new planning, which also brings collaboration,” Kevin mentions. “I have learned that as a leader, you have to bring people along with you and that you’re only as good as the team you have around you.”

Navigating 2023: Lessons from the Past Year

Kevin acknowledges that the past year has brought valuable lessons that have shaped Donatos too, primarily the unpredictable nature of the business environment. 2023 comes with its own unique challenges as consumer spending tightens. Kevin highlights that one of the top goals for our brand in the remainder of the year is to continue growing the digital adoption for guests and customers.

We also prioritize delivering value to customers without deviating from their premium position and improving profitability for franchise partners for the rest of 2023 and beyond. Our Donatos team of exceptional professionals commits to helping franchise partners every step of the way, from initial planning through ongoing operations. “We consistently work to ensure our teams have the right tools to help our franchise partners,” Kevin mentions.

Franchise Opportunities in 2023 and Beyond

Potential franchise partners assessing a partnership with Donatos should know that our brand's premium product is highly differentiated, offering something that tech giants cannot replicate. At Donatos, we place great emphasis on quality, consistency, and purpose, making us an ideal choice for those looking to align their goals with a brand that gives back to the community.

Kevin's leadership impact is deeply tied to delivering repeat sales, fostering brand loyalty, sharing values with customers, and ensuring profitability for franchise partners. He highlights that Donatos plans to continue on our current path of growth. “We have recently expanded with new stores in Oklahoma City and Texas for next year, and plan to increase product distribution, and build more synergies with brand awareness.”

Our legacy is built on an unwavering commitment to quality, purpose, and innovation. As we embrace the challenges and opportunities of 2023, our brand remains a compelling franchise choice for those who seek excellence and a brand with a heart.

Stay tuned as Donatos continues to shape the future of the pizza industry, and don't miss out on the opportunity to be part of this remarkable journey! Contact us today to get started.

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