This article was written by Joey Morona and originally posted on Cleveland.com, March 20, 2018.
“CLEVELAND, Ohio — Clevelanders know Rascal House pizza. Whether you’ve dined at the original store on the campus of Cleveland State University or had it delivered to your home or office, you probably have a Rascal House memory.
Niko Frangos is looking to take the brand to places where it isn’t as well known. The Rascal House CEO, who left his career as a Disney animator in 2016 to take the helm of the business started in 1980 by his parents, Mike and Fouly, has embarked on an ambitious plan to go regional, if not national.
“The plan right now is a five-state expansion,” Frangos said. “We’re open to sell in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.”
The company hopes to open up to four new restaurants this year and 15 over the next 24 months.
“Within five years, we’re projected to have about 50 stores,” he said.
The chain currently has five locations, all in Greater Cleveland.
While no specfic addresses have been lined up yet, Frangos and his sales team have seen interest from potential franchisees in Akron and Toledo. He is also targeting Columbus and Cincinnati before testing the waters beyond the Buckeye State.
“Even though we could sell in Michigan, I’d rather much sell in our backyard in Akron,” he said. “It would be an easier opportunity for a franchisee to start there as opposed to out in Michigan.”
Rascal House’s franchise fee costs $30,000, with an intital investment between $400,000 to $700,000 required depending on the build-out.
“Nobody is signing on the dotted line tomorrow. We’re just really kicking it off and trying to find the right people,” the CEO said.
While “just another pizza place” might sound like a hard sell to investors, Frangos is confident in the brand, noting that some locations generate over $2 million in sales annually.
“If you look at what we’ve done well and then look at the competition, there’s really nobody doing what we are,” he said. “Yes, there are pizza places out there, but we’re not just pizza. We have burgers, chicken sandwiches, salads. You take all of that and then add in our catering component.”
The Rascal House CEO said he considers fast-casual spots such as Chipotle and Jimmy John’s as his primary competition more so than the big pizza chains like Domino’s and Papa John’s.
Frangos, who worked as an animator on Disney’s “Tarzan,” “Mulan,” “Hercules” and “Fantasia 2000,” said the thought of expansion came to him after a longtime employee expressed interest in running his own Rascal House store. For him, the potential was so compelling, after more than 20 years in the movie business, he moved from Hollywood back to Cleveland.