SAN RAMON, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As Straw Hat Pizza Restaurants celebrates its 50th anniversary in July, it is announcing aggressive plans to double in size to more than 100 eateries by the end of 2010. Straw Hat, which has historically been in California, is embarking on a national expansion to Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Oregon, Nevada, Texas and beyond.
Even in a recession, pizza is a luxury many Americans can still afford. "Pizza is a comfort food," says Jonathan C. Fornaci, president of Straw Hat Restaurants, which has seen sales rise 4.8 percent in the last six months - the chain's "best year ever."
Driving Straw Hat's success is Americans' focus on the family, and the emerging fast-casual segment of the restaurant industry, which falls between fast food and full-serve restaurants, and continues to shine. Sales for the top 100 fast-casual restaurant chains grew by nearly 11 percent in 2008, to $16.7 billion, according to Technomic, a Chicago-based restaurant industry research and consulting firm. Technomic also listed Straw Hat as the fifth fastest growing franchise chain in the USA for 2008.
Last year, Americans ordered more than 5.5 billion pizzas, according to the market research company NPD Group, more than any restaurant item other than burgers and fries.
In Arkansas developers will open the first Straw Hat location in Benton, Arkansas (10 minutes from Little Rock) in August of 2009.
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, throughout the month of July, Straw Hat is offering the following deals:
Founded in 1959, Straw Hat Pizza is the originator of "Genuine California Pizza," comprised of 58 locations in California; Straw Hat is poised for rapid growth in the U.S. 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.