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Donatos signs its biggest franchise deal

COLUMBUS Ohio Donatos Pizza, in what it describes as the largest franchise partnership in its 44-year history, has signed a 60-unit deal with Piedmont Pizzeria LLC. The pizzerias would be developed in North and South Carolina over the next five years, with the first scheduled to open Oct. 17 in Charlotte, N.C., Donatos said.

In addition, other franchisees of the 177-unit pizza chain are adding stores in Ohio, the Columbus-based company said. The chain has units in five states.

Donatos has been accelerating its expansion after a restructuring, which followed the Grote family’s repurchase of the company from McDonald’s Corp. at the end of 2003. Donatos, which was founded by Jim Grote, was owned and operated by McDonald’s for four years.

Donatos’ year-old $5.5 million dough commissary and bakery has the capacity to serve triple the number of restaurants it now supplies with pre-proofed pizza crusts, the company noted.

Piedmont is led by Joe Drury, Glenn Gulledge and Mark Ourant. The three have extensive experience in operating quick-service concepts, including units of Wendy’s, Bojangles’ and Just Fresh, said Jane Grote Abell, president and chief operating officer of Donatos.

Donatos posted sales of $174 million last year.

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