MUFSO Operator of the Year 2017 Jack Butorac Marco's Pizza Ron Ruggless

Jack Butorac named 2017 Operator of the Year

Marco’s Pizza CEO turned a small chain into an innovative, high-growth concept

This is part of Nation’s Restaurant News' special coverage of the 2017 MUFSO conference, taking place Oct. 1-3 at the Hyatt Regency at Reunion Tower in Dallas. Follow coverage of the event on NRN.com and tweet with us using #MUFSO. Stay connected on the go by downloading the MUFSO app.

Jack Butorac, who took a small, regional pizza-delivery concept and turned it into one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the country, was named 2017 Operator of the Year at the annual MUFSO conference in Dallas on Monday.

“It’s not me, it’s the whole team,” Butorac said afterward. “It’s a group effort. We are all aligned.”

 

The chairman and CEO of Marco’s Pizza bested a field of some of the best-known and most successful operators in the industry for the honor, which celebrates excellence in foodservice.

Shake Shack Inc. CEO Randy Garutti, White Castle CEO Lisa Ingram, The Cheesecake Factory Inc. CEO David Overton, and Dave & Buster’s Entertainment Inc. CEO Steve King were all Golden Chain winners in the running for Operator of the Year.

Butorac is a longtime restaurateur who had been an executive with Hormel Foods, Fuddruckers and Chi-Chi’s Inc., among others. He was a consultant in 2002 when he took a job analyzing Ohio-based Marco’s for a client who was looking at investing in foodservice brands.

Pat Giamarco founded Marco’s in 1978, based on old family recipes. The concept had 126 units when Butorac first discovered it. He visited five Marco’s locations while studying the brand and ultimately met Giamarco. In 2004, Butorac bought the chain.

Since then, Marco’s has undertaken an aggressive growth strategy to get on the map in the highly competitive restaurant business.

The company’s system-wide sales grew 45 percent between 2014 and 2016, earning it a spot among the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the U.S., according to NRN Top 200 data. Unit count grew 33 percent over that period to 770 locations by the end of 2016.

When Butorac took ownership of the chain, he had one goal in mind: to grow.

“At the time I said I wanted to be the fourth-largest pizza chain,” he said earlier this year. “As you know, Little Caesars has turned around significantly since then and is now No. 3, so I’ll settle for No. 5.”

Marco’s engineered this growth despite a tough economy and financing challenges, largely by taking innovative approaches to solving problems.

During the Great Recession the company used numerous strategies to help increase bankers’ confidence in lending to the chain’s franchisees. And the company was often at the forefront of franchise-financing strategies.  Marco’s notably struck a deal to rent dedicated space inside many Family Video locations, one of the last remaining video-rental chains operating in the U.S.

For Butorac, these strategies are all aimed at getting the company to achieve the goal he set when he bought the chain.

“I can’t accept not growing,” he said.

Contact Jonathan Maze at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

The MUFSO Premier sponsor is The Coca Cola Company

Presenting sponsors are: Blount Fine Foods, The Coca Cola Company, UNiDAYS

Kitchen Hero Cook-Off is presented by Texas Pete/TW Garner Food Company

The Hot Concepts Reception is sponsored by Rock & Brews

The Industry Awards Gala is sponsored by Tyson Foods, Daiya Foods, Natural brands

Pillar sponsors are: Alchemy Systems, Bloom Intelligence, Boylan Bottling, Cardlytics, Mainstreet, Inc., Nudge Rewards, S&D Coffee, Smithfield Farmland Foodservice, Sweet Street, Weston Foods, Zenput

The MUFSO app sponsor is Steritech

Refreshment breaks are sponsored by Blount Fine Foods, Boylan Bottling, Royal Cup Coffee, Smithfield Farmland Foodservice, Sweet Street, Ventura Foods, and Weston Foods

The Supplier Exchange Luncheon is sponsored by Hale & Hearty, Bruce Cost Ginger Ale and Copper Moon Coffee

The Lanyard & Welcome package is sponsored by Hospitality Mints

MUFSO Breakfast sponsors are Moore’s Food Resources, Community Coffee and Natural Brands

VIP Dinner sponsored by Moment Feed, Pan Pacific Plastics and Rotella’s Bakery

The official music sponsor is Rockbot

Correction Oct. 4, 2018: In 2012, Marco's founder Pat Giamarco operated 126 locations. A previous version of this story misidentified this number.

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