The list of accomplishments is long for Paul Hitzelberger. He was a senior officer with General Mills, part of the Coast to Coast franchise, turned Osco Drug Stores in the Central Illinois region from worst of 13 to best in less than two years, was selected for the company's Hall of Fame, and went on to engineer 15 years of consecutive same-store sales increases at Del Taco. To use a sports metaphor, Hitzelberger is an All Star.
For the past three decades, he's been on both sides of the business, as franchisor and franchisee, playing a leading role in helping the Del Taco brand grow to more than 540 restaurants in 17 states.
After serving 15 years as chief marketing officer for Del Taco, he retired, but it didn't stick. In 2001, the Chicago-born entrepreneur started a new career as a franchisee, buying eight Del Taco locations in Utah. "The only partner I have now is my wife," he says, adding that he has an "outstanding" relationship with Del Taco and loves the product.
A former senior officer with General Mills and franchisor at Coast to Coast stores, Hitzelberger has earned franchisee accolades over the years, regularly posting the highest average volume within the Del Taco system. "Our volumes are impressive, but we can always do better," he says.
Hitzelberger says he has no doubt that treating employees like team members accounts for much of his company's success. "I'm told I have strong interpersonal skills. I listen to our team and our customers and I respond. Taking action is part of success. I know how to produce top- and bottom-line results. By inverting the triangle and putting myself at the bottom, I'm helping our team do well for our customers."
As he approaches 70, this family man is far from ready to retire again. "I love what I'm doing. For me, it's fun," he says. "Our goal to be the best alternative in each neighborhood throughout Utah, and we'll be building restaurants where they're convenient for our customers."
Name: Paul Hitzelberger
Title: President, CEO of Utah Del, Salt Lake City
No. of units: 26 Del Tacos
Age: 69 years young
Family: Wife and partner Jane, son Eric, who works in our business, daughter Darlene, and 4 grandchildren
Years in franchising: 32; 13 as a Del Taco franchisee, 15 with franchisor Del Taco, 4 with Coast to Coast stores as franchisor
Years in current position: 13