Straw Hat Restaurants Rise Above Economic Slowdown to Roll out Nationally California-Based Chain to Nearly Double in Size and Open New Restaurant in A

SAN RAMON, Calif., Nov 06, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Despite tough economic times, Straw Hat Restaurants plans to nearly double in size by the end of 2009, with roughly 42 new eateries in the pipeline. The 58-store chain, which has historically been in California, is embarking on a national expansion to Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Texas and beyond, said Jonathan C. Fornaci, president of Straw Hat Restaurants.

Poised to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the California-based premiere pizza and restaurant chain is embarking on its national expansion with its traditional pizza eateries, along with two new concept restaurants called Straw Hat Express and Straw Hat Grill.

"We are growing faster than originally projected," said Fornaci. "In this shaky economy, there is a need for the inexpensive, family restaurant, and unemployed workers and downsized corporate executives are looking for opportunities like our franchises to own and operate their own enterprises."

Straw Hat is confident that the company will pass its goal of 100 units by 2009 instead of his original projection of 2010. Once the company is up to 100 franchise units, Fornaci said the chain plans to file for an IPO.

The expansion will fuel new jobs in Arkansas where developers will open the first Straw Hat location in Bryant, Arkansas (10 minutes from Little Rock) in July of 2009. There are plans forat least five flagship stores in the next five years, and as many as 20 in the next decade, said Brian Butler, an Arkansas attorney who is building the Arkansas locations with business partner, Dexter Heard, a former Pizza Hat and Domino's pizza regional director.

"We're very excited about bringing Straw Hat to Arkansas," said Butler. "We're opening in the heart of a residential community that needs a hub for families to gather. There's nothing like it here." The developers have purchased the entire state of Arkansas as a development territory for Straw Hat.

In addition to the national rollout, Straw Hat recently rolled out a pasta program with superior quality noodles and newly created sauces. A family size salad and/or a medium pizza can be added on for only $5 each, helping extend more value to consumers.

About Straw Hat Restaurants

Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of 58 locations in the Western United States and a new restaurant opening in Arkansas in 2009. The franchise recently was awarded the prestigious seal of Fair Franchising by the American Association Franchisees & Dealers (AAFD) and awarded "hottest franchise" by America's Hottest Franchise.

SOURCE: Straw Hat Pizza

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