“We like to have clusters of stores, and we also look for targeted opportunities in some markets with just one store,” Pizitz says.
Pizitz says the Great American Cookie product line resonates with consumers because it is widely accepted across all socioeconomic and demographic groups. The company has found solid success in both white-collar and blue-collar locations.
“The key in all of our markets is offering a great product from individual cookies to the 16-inch cookie cakes and beyond,” Pizitz says. “We bake three times a day in our stores to keep products fresh, and we ensure great customer service and a clean, friendly environment in all stores.”
Looking to Improve
Because of the company’s wide geographic footprint, it has created an organizational structure that allows it make sure quality is consistent. It has four regional managers, a training manager and a development manager, as well as local general managers on site.
“We are in the car and on planes a lot so we can visit our stores regularly,” Pizitz says. “We have to get out to stores to make sure we keep our product and customer service levels high.”
Also helping the company to oversee its operations are recent improvements in IT systems. The company brought in the NCR Silver POS System, which is an iPad-based system, meaning no more cash registers and payment terminals.
“It makes transactions quicker and allows us to control our business better,” Pizitz says. “We will roll it out to all 55 locations this year.”
Additionally, the company invested into the DDT surveillance and loss prevention system in several stores. Each of those stores is now equipped with several cameras as well as audio data on all transactions. The system also generates reports on a number of metrics, such as average unit sale per hour and per employee, and it generates red flag reports to highlight any aberrations.
“It does help reduce theft, but it also helps improve productivity,” Pizitz says. “We plan to role that out to another dozen stores this year and evaluate the process from there.”
Another investment area has gone into online ordering for the company’s cookie cake business. The system is a quantum leap beyond the previous fax and phone order setup. It helps reduce order error and loss, which benefits customer service.
“We will roll that out to all stores this spring,” Pizitz says. “This may be a simple business, but technology is worth the investment.”
At the same time that the company has worked to keep the quality of its Great American Cookie operations high, it has also created a cobranding concept in some of its stores. It has brought the Pretzelmaker franchise into a number of its locations.
“We’ve learned a lot, and we can give customers a diversification of products, including serving those customers who may not look for cookies,” Pizitz says. “For stores that are 1,000 to 1,200 square feet, those are the locations where we can welcome a co-brand operation.”
In addition to bringing in another franchise, Pizitz’s company has created a franchise of its own. It started the 32 Degrees Frozen Yogurt franchise several years ago and now has more than a dozen locations.
“Being a franchisor of 32 Degrees and a franchisee with Great American Cookie has allowed us to continue learning,” Pizitz says. “We have a better understanding of what franchisors and franchisees need in terms of the level of support for products and operations.”
Although the nature of brick and mortar shopping continues to change, Pizitz says the company is bullish on its future prospects. With the Great American Cookie brand, the company feels confident because chocolate chip cookies and baked goods have been popular for a long time. Pizitz thinks consumers will continue to respond to the quality and selection of its Great American Cookie products. He also believes the Pretzelmaker option and continued growth of 32 Degrees Frozen Yogurt bode well for his company.
“We have to make sure we have well-trained managers, assistant managers, shift leaders and frontline staff,” Pizitz says. “We are a retailer that sells food and our stores must be in top shape at all times. Training is critical. We also have opportunities to grow, as we are still mainly concentrated in the Southeast. We are looking for opportunities in small to mid-sized cities beyond that region so we can expand the footprint and take advantage of opportunities to grow and satisfy more consumers.”