Satisfying that urgent craving for pizza just got easier in Fort Dodge. Little Caesars Pizza opened for business Monday at 3041 First Ave. S.
Getting high-quality food in the customer's hands quickly is at the heart of the Little Caesars approach according to Brad Loney, who owns the Fort Dodge outlet as well as Little Caesars stores in Newton and West Des Moines.
"The Hot-N-Ready concept is a concept unlike any other pizza chain out there," Loney said. "You don't have to call ahead. You don't have to order ahead. We have the pizzas cooked and ready to go right when you walk in the door."
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Fort Dodge Little CAesars Pizza owner Brad Loney, left, and general manager Katrina Johnson, hold up a sample of the store’s pizza.
Keeping waiting time to a minimum is a priority.
"If you were to come in right now and tell me 'I want a pepperoni pizza, a cheese pizza, an order of Crazy Bread, a wings, cheese bread and two liters of pop,' you'd be in and out of my lobby in 30 seconds," Loney said. "All made fresh, ready to go for you."
In addition to the Hot-N-Ready items, there is a more extensive menu that takes just a bit longer to prepare. Even with the specialty items, however, the turnaround is fast, Loney said.
"We have a full-line menu. The Hot-N-Ready that you don't have to call ahead or order ahead for, it's a decent-size menu, but that's not our whole menu," he explained. "You can call ahead. We can have a pizza ready in six minutes or you can order in the lobby and we'll have it ready in about six minutes."
The store is strictly carryout. There is no dining room and delivery is not offered.
"Every establishment has their niche," Loney said. "Little Caesars has its niche for takeout. ... Fresh, quality, value, convenience."
Pizza - both regular and deep dish - with a wide array of toppings is the big seller, but Crazy Bread (bread sticks), wings and Italian cheese bread are also popular offerings. Pizza by the slice is available during the lunch hour (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). The large pizzas are 14 inches. The deep dish pizzas are 12 inches. Prices vary with the number of toppings, but Loney said being competitive on price is a hallmark of Little Caesars Pizza.
According to a nationwide survey of quick-service restaurant customers conducted by Sandelman & Associates, Little Caesars is ranked as the "best value in America" by the respondents. Loney said it is a source of pride that this No. 1 ranking has been earned by the Little Caesars chain for four consecutive years.
No. 1 fan
Actually, Loney didn't need a survey to be convinced that the pizza Little Caesars offers is something special. He was a fan long before he became a franchise owner.
"I lived in Des Moines as a kid," he explained. "They had Little Caesars Pizza. I loved it, loved it, loved it."
He said the flavor sets it apart from the competition.
"It's altogether different than anybody else," Loney said of pizza at Little Caesars. "The sauce is unique."
Loney said he was willing to travel a bit to indulge this passion when he lived in communities where there was no Little Caesars outlet.
"In my career, I ended up in Newton, Iowa, and found out there was a Little Caesars in Marshalltown. So we drove from Newton to Marshalltown to get pizza quite regularly. And then I spent six years in the Quad Cities over in Muscatine, Iowa, and I found out they had one in East Moline. So we would drive quite regularly to East Moline to get pizza."
It was on a business trip that a stop at a Little Caesars in Aurora, Ill., introduced him to the Hot-N-Ready concept. Loney said he was impressed with that marketing innovation and began to explore purchasing a Little Caesars franchise as an attractive business venture.
He said it turned out to be a great way to combine a passion for the product with an appealing career change. Loney opened a Little Caesars in West Des Moines on Oct. 24, 2009. He added a Newton outlet almost a year later. The Fort Dodge store is his third, but Loney said he hopes to grow his venture more as opportunities emerge.
"We're going to do more," he said. "Not sure how many more."
Fort Dodge store
The Fort Dodge Little Caesars is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Fridays and Saturdays the store closes an hour later - at 10 p.m. It will be open just short of 365 days per year, being closed only on Thanksgiving and Christmas and having an early closing time on Christmas Eve. Loney anticipates that the local enterprise usually will have a work force of about 20 employees - a mix of full- and part-time personnel. Katrina Johnson is the general manager in Fort Dodge.
"We're excited to be here in the community," Loney said, noting that he has moved to Fort Dodge. "We think we've picked a strategic location."
That sentiment was echoed by Johnson, who also has relocated to Fort Dodge.
"The people are really nice here," she said.
Loney stressed that he wants to be a good corporate citizen.
"We do a lot of community give-back in both of my other stores," he said.
Given the geographic separation of his stores, Loney is on the road a good deal.
"I drive usually about 200 miles a day," he said.
While that leads to some long hours, Loney said it is important to make certain each of his stores is "running at peak performance."
Contact Terrence Dwyer at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org