The Untold Truth Of Gatti's Pizza

If you were lucky enough to go to a Mr. Gatti's Pizza restaurant when you were younger then you know just how awesome the establishment can be. If you weren't lucky enough to go, then allow us to paint you a picture: imagine all the fun of a Chuck E. Cheese or CiCis pizza but with better games, fewer little kids (and little kid smells), and way better pizza. That was Mr. Gatti's, a family pizza joint with tons of games and entertainment that still managed to have delicious food for everyone to enjoy.

Truly, Mr. Gatti's Pizza isn't your typical pizza joint. Sure, you can order whatever kind of pie you want and they have a pretty extensive menu, but the emphasis at Mr. Gatti's Pizza is more on the entire experience of eating and playing there. But what's the story of Mr. Gatti's Pizza? Well, it's pretty interesting, and the untold truth of Gatti's Pizza is that the restaurant chain is a lot more than just pizza.

Mr. Gatti's Pizza began in Texas

Just like pretty much every chain restaurant, Mr. Gatti's Pizza started out small. Though it hasn't been around for centuries and, less hyperbolically, Mr. Gatti's Pizza isn't quite as popular as other nationwide pizza mega-chains, it does have a pretty interesting back story. After all, Mr. Gatti's Pizza didn't just appear out of thin air. The work that it took to make it the large franchise into what it is today started very humbly indeed.

According to the Mr. Gatti's Pizza website, the chain was launched in a small Texas town years ago when founder James Eure opened his first pizza joint in 1964 in Stephenville, Texas. Though, at the time, it was simply called "The Pizza Place", this first restaurant would plant the seeds for a business that would grow to much larger proportions. In 1969, Eure moved to Austin, Texas, where the first official Mr. Gatti's Pizza opened. Eure named it Mr. Gatti's Pizza in honor of his wife's maiden name. That's a pretty sweet dedication to his wife, if you ask us, especially if she enjoyed pizza as much as Mr. Gatti's restaurant-goers. So, with a rather grand romantic gesture, Mr. Gatti's Pizza was off!

This is their signature recipe

Unlike certain other pizza chains where it seems like the actual quality of the food is the last thing on anyone's mind, Mr. Gatti's Pizza takes pride in its food. More than that, they expect their patrons to actually be able to sit down and enjoy their pizza without hustling them out the door. Because of that dedication to quality and service, the recipe for Mr. Gatti's Pizza actual pizza is pretty impressive.

Well, not that Mr. Gatti's Pizza actually gives out their own recipe for their delicious pizza, as that would reveal a central component of their business. However, they do make it clear that their food isn't just made cheaply or easily. According to the Mr. Gatti's Pizza website, their sauce is made from "tomatoes fresh-packed four hours from harvest", while their pizzas are topped with "smoked Provolone cheese reminiscent of the flavor our customers grew up with." Sounds like the perfect complement to some pepperoni. Finally, their pizza dough is made by hand every single day, meaning that hungry diners will get the best-quality pizza dough and none of that stuff that's been chilling in a fridge for days. 

How Mr. Gatti's Pizza got into the game business

Now, as delicious as the pizza at Mr. Gatti's Pizza may be, that isn't the only reason people frequent the chain restaurant. As anyone who got to visit a Mr. Gatti's Pizza as a child surely knows, the games at the establishment were probably the best part of a meal there. However, Mr. Gatti's Pizza didn't always feature games and it wasn't until years after the first Mr. Gatti's opened in Austin, Texas that the game rooms made their debut.

Specifically, according to the Mr. Gatti's Pizza website, it wasn't until the 1980s that a few Mr. Gatti's Pizza locations built "state-of-the-art game rooms, beginning an evolution that eventually led to a 25,000 square-foot superstore that devotes 10,000 square feet to a colossal Midway-type game room." By 1994, more and more Mr. Gatti's Pizza places began to feature an attached game room, kicking off a beloved feature of many modern Mr. Gatti's locations. There's really nothing quite like enjoying a slice of pizza while having a Pac-Man competition with your best friend or utterly crushing the competition at skeeball. If nothing else, the flashing lights and loud noises of the games are plenty exciting for energetic young children. Mr. Gatti's Pizza totally understands that.

Mr. Gatti's Pizza focuses on a particular market

As a chain restaurant, Mr. Gatti's Pizza obviously has the ability to open plenty of franchises. However, they must think carefully about their budget and existing fanbases, meaning that Mr. Gatti's franchises currently only open in certain areas of the United States. Sadly, if you live too far up north, that means you probably don't have a Mr. Gatti's Pizza near you.

As the Mr. Gatti's Pizza website states, anyone interested in opening up a new Mr. Gatti's Pizza franchise needs to know that it's important to be strategic about location. According to the company's own research, there are currently a few particular states where a Mr. Gatti's Pizza is most likely to succeed. That focus lands pretty heavily on the American South, with a few additional markets in the West and Midwest. Not only does the state matter when considering a new franchise, but so, too, does its city. According to the company website, a Mr. Gatti's Pizza franchise can only really thrive in a city with a population between 60,000 and 250,000. The company also looks for communities where the average household income lands between $55,000 and $80,000. Basically, the Mr. Gatti's Pizza market is focused on the South and Midwest, in cities and towns with a large population of working-class families. Hopefully, that will give them a chance to land amongst some of the best pizza places in those states.

Mr. Gatti's Pizza was bought by another company

Though Mr. Gatti's Pizza had been around for quite some time, in the modern age, they decided that the restaurant needed a kind of makeover to appeal to more customers. Though Mr. Gatti's Pizza had seen plenty of success during its decades-long run, in 2015 it was purchased by another company to help Mr. Gatti's Pizza continue its business in the best and most profitable manner yet.

According to Pizza Today, Mr. Gatti's Pizza was acquired by Sovrano, LLC, a private-equity group based in Fort Worth, Texas. Sovrano sought to "re-energize the legacy brand by capitalizing on its key strengths, and meeting the consumer demand for quality pizza in a family friendly setting." Michael Poates, the president of Sovrano, explained that the group chose Mr. Gatti's Pizza because the "company is solid and profitable, and provides a great platform for growth." Given the continued success of the pizza franchise after its new owner took over, it seems to have been a good financial decision for the company.

People really enjoy the pizza at Mr. Gatti's

It's really only right to be skeptical of most chain restaurants, especially pizza joints, as they seem to never be as good as local mom and pop places. But at Mr. Gatti's Pizza, many argue that the food is just as good as a five-star pizza restaurant. The pizza itself is seriously crave-able, at least if you choose to go by the online reviews for the various Mr. Gatti's Pizza franchises.

Those reviews for Mr. Gatti's Pizza are often extremely positive, with customers raving about the food and overall dining experience. One reviewer wrote that the pizza at a Mr. Gatti's Pizza location in Plano, Texas, was certainly one to write home about. "This is probably the most underrated pizza place on the planet," they explained. "Very good prices, the management there are extremely friendly, and the pizza is AMAZING. If you have never tried Gatti's, do yourself a favor and get some NOW!" Another customer at a Houston, Texas location raved that "I absolutely love their pizza anytime, anywhere!!!"

Mr. Gatti's Pizza has faced bankruptcy

Despite positive reviews and its acquisition by a private equity group in 2015, Mr. Gatti's Pizza still needed some help by 2019. Specifically, as the Austin Statesman reported, Mr. Gatti's filed for bankruptcy "to address banking and operations issues, and is not the result of the health of the brand's operations. The filing will have no impact on operations at the store level. Customers will not see any change in service or the quality of our products." The company furthermore promised that it would keep up with all of its bills and continue helping its individual franchisees throughout the process. Yet, customers might have wondered if Mr. Gatti's would join the ranks of disappearing pizza chains across the country.

And that was basically exactly what happened. As KXAN reported, in 2020, just about a year from the original bankruptcy filing, Mr. Gatti's Pizza came out of bankruptcy just fine. Travis Smith, vice president of marketing for Mr. Gatti's Pizza told KXAN, "The system is performing well and we are forecasting strong growth for 2020 both from existing locations and new franchise sales." It sounds like the press releases and statements were pretty honest, as it appears that Mr. Gatti's Pizza ended up with few financial scars from this time period.

Employees don't love working there

As fun as it might be to eat and play at a Mr. Gatti's Pizza, it's certainly not as enjoyable to work there, at least according to some former and current employees. As Gatti's workers reviewing the company on Indeed reported, the establishment doesn't always make for a pleasant work experience. On average, employees gave Mr. Gatti's Pizza a middling 3 stars in just about every category. From work-life balance, to pay and benefits, and management, working at Mr. Gatti's Pizza doesn't seem to always be much fun for the people who have to clock in there day after day.

You may be feeling a bit skeptical, but don't take our word for it. One former employee stated that they had a pretty rough experience, writing that "It was my first job, I felt as if I was plunged into a world with little to no help. I worked at this job for about 2 years and never got a raise even if I asked." Another reported that their impression was that "Management has a difficult time not focusing on actual issues workers have with the culture." Ouch! That's not exactly a stellar review for any place of work, but especially one that vocally prides itself on being fun and friendly. Maybe some workers need to ask around for employee's impressions of other places, like what it's like to work at Pizza Hut.

Mr. Gatti's Pizza has plans to expand

As is the case with every restaurant, Mr. Gatti's Pizza has had its fair share of ups and downs, from everyday hiccups to filing for bankruptcy. Yes, Mr. Gatti's Pizza might not have always had an easy run of things, but in 2020, there was good news: the establishment was growing. According to KXAN, Mr. Gatti's Pizza finally came out of its bankruptcy in November 2019. After that, things began to truly look up for the chain.

Travis Smith, vice president of marketing for Mr. Gatti's Pizza stated that not only was Mr. Gatti's Pizza doing much better after bankruptcy, but they had already landed deals on "several new franchise locations." Additionally, Smith added that the chain has seen "over a dozen qualified applicants in the pipeline", all of whom are interested in opening up a Mr. Gatti's Pizza franchise of their own. And who could blame them? Mr. Gatti's Pizza came out stronger after bankruptcy and it seems as though the restaurant will be opening more and more locations in the future.

This is where you can find the largest Mr. Gatti's Pizza restaurant

Because Mr. Gatti's Pizza is such a beloved establishment that has been around for years, there are bound to be huge fans of the chain restaurant all over. In Lexington, Kentucky, there are people who love Mr. Gatti's Pizza just as much as those in any other state. That's because Lexington is home to the "largest store by square footage and sales in the Mr. Gatti's Pizza family," according to Lexington Family.

While the Mr. Gatti's Pizza restaurant franchise in Lexington, known as "Gattitown" for its expansive game room and play area, might be famous for its size, it's still decidedly a family place. In fact, Gattitown Lexington is owned by a local family, the Frye family, so even though you're eating at a chain restaurant when you eat at the largest Mr. Gatti's Pizza, you're still supporting the local economy and families in the Lexington area. It's clear that, even though the Gattitown location in Lexington is huge, Mr. Gatti's Pizza frequently continues to be, at its heart, a family operation.

Mr. Gatti's Pizza embraces nostalgia

As an adult, the thought of spending an afternoon at a Mr. Gatti's Pizza might not excite you the way it would have done when you were a kid with more energy and a higher tolerance for greasy food. But, Mr. Gatti's Pizza is still fun and a great place for families regardless of age. In fact, the chain restaurant is counting on its original child customers to return as adults with families of their own, largely powered by their customers' fond memories and nostalgia for the chain. Honestly, their total embrace of nostalgia is pretty unique.

According to the Mr. Gatti's Pizza website, the restaurant is well aware that dine-in pizza joints with game rooms aren't exactly hip and modern anymore. That's something they plan to use to their advantage. "While many brands are chasing the trends of the day or trying to hop on the latest fad, Mr. Gatti's is taking a different approach," they claim. "We are defining our future by revisiting our past and reconnecting to its latency, at a time and place when the brand had optimal market share and name recognition." Not exactly poetry, sure, but it's clear that Mr. Gatti's Pizza knows what works for its franchises. Really, as long as their pizza remains delicious and their game room is fully lit up, they'll likely always come out on top.