Domenic Primucci, president of Pizza Nova, grew up in the pizza business. “The company is older than I am,” Primucci tells with a laugh. “I’ve been involved basically all of my life.”
Pizza Nova, which celebrated 50 years in May, has grown from a single store, family-run operation in Scarborough to a franchise of 130 locations in Ontario.
When the company was a Canadian National Exhibition partner at the annual summer-ending event in Toronto, Primucci worked there every summer during his teens. “From washing dishes to rolling dough to slicing the cheese and slicing the peppers; whatever needed to be done,” he says.
While still in school, Primucci worked his way up through every store-level position at Pizza Nova, starting as a dishwasher. Although there wasn’t any pressure to become involved in the company, he developed a passion for the business. “It becomes who you are,” he says.
Domenic took on the role of president about four years ago, after working at head office for almost two decades in marketing and with the warehouse and call centre. Before that, he ran the corporate store.
“I think it’s a great training ground to go through the different areas,” he notes. When making decisions that will affect day-to-day operations, Primucci puts himself in the franchisee’s shoes.
Domenic’s father, chief executive officer Sam Primucci, is pleased his son showed an interest in the family business, which he feels is going through a transition in leadership.
“It’s not easy when you do things for 50 years and all of a sudden you’re stepping back and I think that there are some things you have to accept,” he says. He says that, often, parents want their children to do things exactly the same way they would have done them, but “a different way may be just as good or better.”
Consensus is important not only when it comes to he and Domenic, but also the rest of the staff, he notes. Every Tuesday morning, the Pizza Nova staff meets for a brainstorming session. Before a new product is tested at the Jane and Wilson corporate store, it is brought to the head office and call centre staff for an honest opinion.
Sam opened the first location with his three brothers Mike, Vince and Joe while they were all in their 20s at Kennedy Road and Lawrence Avenue in 1963. His family is from Busilicata, a region in southern Italy.
“At that time, we served all of Scarborough all the way to West Hill, Don Mills,” says Sam. We delivered all over.”
Over the years, the brothers moved on to other ventures or retired, and operations fell to Sam.
The company will become part of the foodservice operations at The Rogers Centre in Toronto, after being awarded an eight-unit deal in December as the sole pizza operator in the stadium.
The brand’s growth has been at a slow and steady rate. Domenic says the company isn’t focused on simply opening locations and letting the product suffer.
He says Pizza Nova focuses on franchisee success, which is what ultimately leads to brand success.
Seven years ago, Pizza Nova tackled a rebranding: a new look, logo and atmosphere.
The idea, says Domenic, was to bring the new brand into alignment with the quality of product. The yellow signs were replaced with green and red and the logo redesigned to look more elegant.
He calls the move both difficult and bold. “I’m sure it was very hard for my father, after building the brand for 43 years,” says Domenic.
“The base of the product hasn’t changed much: the dough sauce and cheese,” he says. They have brought in more toppings, and made gluten free and whole wheat crust available, which was first introduced in the 70’s but cancelled due to lack of traction at that time.
Sam explains that Pizza Nova uses centre-cut bacon, not bacon ends, Spanish instead of cooking onions, bell peppers, fried hot peppers, vine-ripened tomatoes packed six hours from picking and real, extra virgin olive oil.
“The brand, the store, the atmosphere; everything has to gel together, it’s a whole package,” says Sam. “We had the quality; we didn’t have the whole package.”
He says it was hard to change, and “in time, I’m sure it’s going to change again.”
Domenic says the quality his father speaks of is the brand’s differentiator. “I like to say sometimes that we like to consider ourselves the Starbucks of pizza.”
Sam has been through two recessionary periods while heading up the pizza franchise.
“We have a niche market that we cater to; it’s the niche market that saved us through the recession,” he says. “The same ways we have been loyal to our suppliers, our customers have been very loyal to us.”
“In the last 20 years, I think that the consumer has educated themselves a lot more about the quality of food,” says Sam.
The company also provides donations in kind, support to the United Way and Villa Charities, an umbrella organization supporting the elderly and people with disabilities.
For more information on Pizza Nova, visit us at www.pizzanova.com, or contact them today!