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Noble Roman's gets rolling with take-and-bake franchises

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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.

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  • Loved the old tomato sauce
    Hard for NR to shake their image from the past decade of closed and dirty restaurants, shared quarters with Subways and gas stations, and now the grocery store take'n bake concept. (Take 'n bake franchises also don't have to charge/report sales tax, as the food is not "prepared" by cooking, but sold as staples/produce.) Give my the ORIGINAL deep dish Sicilian and old Bambino recipe!!!
  • I luv Noble Romans!
    I miss having them around. I hope one of their stores is in the general Meridian/86th Street area. I will make good use of it.
  • Masters of Re-invention
    Over the years, this company has reinvented itself almost as many times as Madonna. For several years it was a full-serve pizza restaurant with a good salad bar, then a mini-store in gas stations/co-branded stores/small locations, and now this Take-n-Bake concept. Since they're headquartered in Indy, I do hope they eventually hit on something that works. In the meantime, their stock is about the same price it was 7 years ago, so at least they're not losing ground corporately. Been some lawsuits where their franchisees can't say the same, unfortunately, but hopefully everyone will fare better under this new concept. Need some good promotions, though, as I haven't even heard of it in the glutted pizza market or ever seen them in the grocery store (are they available locally?). Love their bread sticks, so best of luck, Noble Romans!

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