Selling freshly made pizzas without adding an oven to the equation has proved a hot concept for Indianapolis-based Noble Roman’s Inc.
Since October, franchisees have opened the pizza chain’s first seven stand-alone, take-and-bake locations—dubbed Noble Roman’s Take-n-Bake P’ZA. Nine more are in development or under construction, firm officials announced Tuesday.
“Take-and-bake continues to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the pizza industry,” said CEO Paul Mobley in prepared comments. “… We continue to grow our pipeline of franchise prospects for the stand-alone take-and-bake concept, and expect to have several others under development over the coming weeks.”
The firm’s take-and-bake concept is very similar to that of the industry-leading Papa Murphy’s chain. Pizzas in the Noble Roman’s Take-n-Bake P’ZA locations are made to order at room temperature, so customers can cook them at home.
IBJ reported in November that Noble Roman’s executives see great upside in the concept, and hope to offer take-and-bake franchising opportunities nationwide.
Six of the first seven Take-n-Bake P’ZA locations are in central Indiana, with the seventh in Decatur, Ill., according to the Noble Roman’s website. An eighth is coming soon to Plainfield. Eight more are expected to open within several months.
The selling point for franchisees is that Take-n-Bake P’ZA locations only require 900 square feet of space, with a minimal amount of equipment required compared with a quick-service restaurant. And without an oven and related cooling/exhaust systems, operating costs such as utilities and maintenance are lower.
Company executives told IBJ last year that it would charge a $15,000 franchise fee and collect 7 percent of net sales from its take-and-bake operators. The start-up cost was estimated at $60,000 to $100,000.
Noble Roman’s ability to keep costs down for take-and-bake franchisees will be key for success of the new brand, analysts said.
“I’ve placed my bet with Noble Roman’s to succeed,” said Ian Cassel, founder of Pennsylvania-based MicroCapClub, a membership organization made up of investors focused on low-priced stocks issued by small companies. “If they can keep [franchisees’] capital expenditures and operational expenditures as low as they say, it should be an opportunity for significant growth in this company, which I believe will be reflected in an increase in the stock price.”
Shares of publicly traded Noble Roman’s were up 9 cents on Tuesday in early trading, to $1.07. In May, Noble Roman’s reported profit of $418,000 for the first-quarter of 2013 on revenue of $1.89 million.
Noble Roman’s is not entirely new to the take-and-bake arena. In 2010, the company started brokering deals to sell uncooked refrigerated pizzas in grocery stores. On Tuesday, the company said that it had increased the number of grocery stores with license agreements to sell its refrigerated pizzas to about 1,625.
Take-and-bake is the latest permutation of pizza retailing adopted by Noble Roman's. It started with traditional pizzerias in 1972, and over the years has tried strategies such as franchising smaller shops in convenience stores and developing a sub-sandwich concept.