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Donatos shutters 7 Fla. stores

ORLANDO Fla. Donatos Pizza has closed its remaining seven company-owned restaurants here after closing four last October. Donatos made the decision in part because the cost of running them was too high, company president Jane Grote Abell told the Orlando Sentinel.

Donatos, which now has about 180 stores, of which one-third are franchised, has begun stepping up its franchising program and building smaller units with half the number of seats as its older units contain, Abell told Nation’s Restaurant News last fall. The smaller units cost about half as much to build, she said, with seating capacity between 40 and 55 instead of 85. The chain, which Abell and her father and company founder, Jim Grote, bought back from McDonald’s at the end of 2003, also has transitioned its service style from full service to fast casual.

Meanwhile, Donatos, which is based in Columbus, Ohio, plans to develop parts of the Southeast as a franchised market with the help of new master franchisees. One of those new franchisees is Joe Drury, former majority owner of Bojangles, who now heads Piedmont Pizzeria LLC in North Carolina and South Carolina. Last fall he agreed to open at least 60 Donatos units over the next five years.

Donatos is offering laid-off managers in Orlando relocation opportunities at other restaurants, Abell said. About 140 employees lost their jobs in the closures.

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