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Doubling down on marketing and playing to strengths helped Capriotti’s thrive in 2020

CEO Ashley Morris said the company plans to re-concept newly acquired Wing Zone as tech-focused brand


When Las Vegas-based Capriotti’s was looking at 40% same-store sales declines as the pandemic shutdown hit in 2020, CEO Ashley Morris remembered some profound advice from a mentor.

“He said you have to run headfirst into your problems,” said Morris.

So Morris decided, if the company was going to run out of money anyway, why not spend the most they could on a marketing program.

The fast-casual brand was already well positioned to expand on delivery and omni-channel ordering, he said. “We thought, let’s just see if we can remind the world that we’re available and we’re open.”

Capriotti’s spent $250,000 on a local marketing campaign in Las Vegas, where the chain had about 40 units. Because so many other advertisers had pulled ads as a result of the pandemic shutdown, Capriotti’s was able to get more for the money, flooding TV channels with commercials.

Within three weeks, the chain went from negative 40% same-store sales to positive results. Morris decided to take the marketing push systemwide.

Capriotti’s ended 2020 with same-store sales up by double digits. The mostly franchised chain had systemwide sales of $84 million, up 9.5%, and Capriotti’s added 18 units for a total of 114 at the end of the year, according to Datassential’s Firefly 500 report.

Early this year, the company acquired Atlanta-based Wing Zone, a simpler brand for franchisees to operate.

Now the goal is to re-concept Wing Zone as a tech-forward brand.

Listen to Morris describe how the company faced its worst fears and shifted into growth mode for both Capriotti’s and Wing Zone.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected]

Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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