From Customer to Employee to Multi-Unit Pizza Factory Franchise Owners – The Pizanos’ Journey

Carlos and Alicia Pizano, Pizza Factory Franchise Owners Since 2019

As a Pizza Factory employee, Carlos Pizano admired how his employers made him and the entire staff feel like family. Years later, the Pizza Factory franchise was top of mind when he and his wife were seeking a change in their career paths and considering buying a business together. They both loved the Pizza Factory and all it represented, and Carlos had hands-on experience. Together, they embarked on the journey to multi-unit franchise ownership. Today, they couldn’t be happier with their decision and cherish the lessons learned along the way.

Why did you purchase a franchise rather than start an independent business?

Carlos’s first job was at the Pizza Factory in Dunsmuir, CA. Then, Carlos transferred to the Pizza Factory in Shasta Lake. Carlos continued to work for Pizza Factory on and off for over 20 years before we purchased the Shasta Lake location. We loved Pizza Factory! We loved the family feeling it had, the brand, the culture, and, of course, the food! 

Did you have your mind set on a specific industry or brand from the start?

We’ve always wanted to own our own business. After talking to another Pizza Factory franchise owner who encouraged us to consider owning our own store one day, we decided that’s what we wanted to do.

Which of your prior skills and experiences are most helpful in operating your business?

Carlos worked off and on at Pizza Factory for about 20 years before we bought our first restaurant, so he was familiar with the restaurant and our community. Alicia has a background in medical office management, HR, accounting, and billing, which has helped a lot with all of the office work and employee management.

When researching franchises to buy, what criteria or data points mattered to you most?

We already knew we wanted to join the Pizza Factory franchise. It seemed like more of a “family” to us. For us, it felt like a ‘Hometown Pizzeria’ more than a cookie-cutter franchise restaurant. The corporate team was very involved, nice, and helpful. We really liked how they genuinely cared about the franchisees and their restaurants. Mary Jane Riva, our CEO, came to the restaurant and met with us. We were really impressed by her and her story and the fact that she took the time to meet us in person and talk with us. MJ owns a Pizza Factory restaurant as well, so she knows what it’s like to be a franchisee. Pizza Factory is more than just a pizza. They find amazing ways to support their communities with campaigns like the No Bully Zone, Buddy Bench, and Gift-A-Meal.

Did you speak with other franchisees? Which questions did you ask?

We spoke with four other franchisees. We asked them what made them decide to become Pizza Factory franchisees, what a typical day is like for them, and how they are involved in their towns and communities. We also asked what tips, suggestions, and advice they wish they had been given when they started. 

Which questions did you ask the franchisor?

When we bought the Shasta Lake location, we were taking over an established restaurant from someone we knew really well, so we asked the previous owner a lot of questions. We had many more questions when we purchased our Redding location because we’d never started a restaurant. Luckily, we had several members from the corporate team to help guide us through everything. The biggest help we needed was with marketing and budgeting, so we asked many questions about how the franchisor supports its franchisees in those areas. 

What were your biggest challenges when you first started out, and how did you overcome them?

For Shasta Lake, we had to update several policies and procedures and restructure many things. Carlos went through training with corporate and worked at a training store, and afterward, we realized there were a lot of things we had to change to make sure we were following the proper procedures. Then, just as we celebrated our first year owning the restaurant, COVID came, and everything changed. We had to adapt by changing procedures, adding curbside, and hiring more delivery drivers. Alicia had to start delivering, too. We had to market a lot differently, too, by utilizing social media more. For our Redding location, we had several challenges. We had a lot of computer and internet problems and parking issues. We were a new restaurant in a bigger city. We had to work a lot harder at marketing. Budging was also very important for us. We received a lot of help from our Vice President, Franchise Business Consultant, and marketing. We had to come up with a completely different marketing plan for Redding. We had to go around town and introduce ourselves. We joined our local Chamber of Commerce. We started a Pizza-It-Forward program where we donate lunches to local businesses, each referred to us by another business, and then post the stories on social media. It’s fun! People get to meet us and know where we are, they get awesome food, and they’re basically helping us do our marketing for us. We learned to do things differently at each location because the communities and the customers are different in each area.

How does the Pizza Factory franchise support and encourage your success?

There are so many ways our franchise supports and encourages us! They’re so awesome! They provide so many tools and ongoing training and support. They’re always available whenever we need them. They are there to listen, advise, and support us in every way. They’ve helped us with marketing, budgeting, and literally any issue we couldn’t figure out on our own. After opening our Redding store, Alicia called Mary Kay, the director of marketing, in tears because we realized how different that location was from our first. She was very supportive and encouraging. They want to hear from the franchisees, and they want us to succeed. They want to make things as easy as possible for us. They want to know if we have any questions or concerns or even any helpful ideas we may have.

What are you most proud of and why?

We are most proud of our involvement with our community and local schools. We sponsor team sports and players, donate to classrooms and teachers, and hold many fundraisers and donations for our community. We also love that many of our employees are in high school, and we’re their first employer. We think it’s important to impact their journey and their future careers positively.

What advice would you give to potential Pizza Factory franchise buyers?

The Pizza Factory franchise is awesome! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Visit other franchisees at their restaurants. Watch how their stores are run. Ask them a lot of questions. Get tips and ideas from other franchisees. There’s so much value in other franchisees’ experiences. Get involved in your community. Join volunteer groups and/or the local Chamber of Commerce. Meet your school principal. If you support your community, they’ll support you! And know that the Pizza Factory franchise has your back, too.

To learn more about the Pizza Factory franchise opportunity, visit