The Untold Truth Of Romeo's Pizza

Many of us out there fall solidly into the Domino's or Pizza Hut camp when it comes to our pizza delivery preferences. But the truth is that there is a whole world of chain pizza options out there waiting to be discovered. And one of them is looking to be your go-to for all your future pizza occasions, from quick weeknight dinners, to weekend get-togethers, and pretty much any time there's a need for celebration. Ohio-based Romeo's Pizza has continued to quietly expand its footprint across the U.S. for the past two decades, looking to form pizza communities and take its own bite out of the $46 billion domestic pizza industry (via Statista).

At Romeo's, it's all about the sweet sauce, lots of fresh toppings, and being more than just a pizza restaurant. Mashed did all the digging on this small but mighty chain. Keep reading for the untold truth of Romeo's Pizza.

Romeo's started out as a mom-and-pop shop

Like many other great brands and businesses that have risen to success, Romeo's started out small. According to current CEO Ryan Rose, Romeo's began as nothing more than a humble little "mom-and-pop shop" when it opened its doors in 1994 in Medina, Ohio (via 1851 Franchise). However, a few years in, the business was struggling to make money, and the owners were running out of steam. That's when Sean Brauser came along.

At 24 years old and fresh out of college, Brauser decided he wanted to pursue his passion for pizza over finance. He quit his job in accounting and opened a pizza place in New Jersey. A few years later, he headed back to his home state of Ohio where he came across Romeo's Pizza, and the stars seemed to align. So he bought the restaurant, completely turned the business operations around, and converted the company into a franchise system (per Franchise Times). Today, Romeo's is a $25 million brand that continues to grow in both size and influence (via Crain's).

It started to expand 20 years ago

Romeo's Pizza began its transformation from a struggling small business in Medina to a growing franchise operation with a nationwide footprint in 2001. That's when Sean Brauser bought the restaurant with bigger goals in mind for it right from the start. Brauser told Franchising Today that he was always confident he could build Romeo's into a force to be reckoned with in the fiercely competitive pizza industry. And 20 years later, Romeo's Pizza is proudly serving more than a million customers a year, with no plans to slow down.

Of course, Romeo's still has a long way to go to compete with the likes of Papa John's and Domino's, which sell millions of pizzas per day on average. However, Brauser told Franchise Times that Romeo's is looking to carve out its own niche for people who want to pay just a little extra for a better-quality pizza than you'll get from the competition.

Before you make plans to try your local Romeo's Pizza, it's worth noting that, like many of its competitors, while some locations offer in-store dining, the chain is primarily focused on carryout and delivery options.

Romeo's is a relatively small chain, but it's growing

Since day one of the company's expansion, Romeo's Pizza has had a franchise-first mindset. Most of the chain's locations are franchise-owned and operated, and the brand continues to attract investment because of its supportive business model and its focus on being more than just a pizza chain, while also positively impacting the community and the environment.

Because of that attitude (and a reputation for delicious pizza), Romeo's has expanded to dozens of locations around the country over the past two decades. In fact, in June 2021 in Georgetown, Texas, the chain opened its 50th location (via QSR Magazine). After expanding beyond the flagship location in Medina, Romeo's Pizza spread all over the state of Ohio and then into Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, and Colorado. Not only is the company hoping to open more franchises in a handful of states across the U.S., but it's also looking to expand its international footprint beyond its current locations in Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. If there's not a location near you, there could be soon, as Romeo's plans to grow to 70 spots by the end of 2021 (per 1851 Franchise).

Romeo's Pizza isn't just seeing growth in terms of the number of stores. The company has reported double-digit, record-breaking sales growth in its stores for the past several years in a row.

There are endless pizza options

Whether you like to keep it simple or overload your pie with a bunch of toppings, there's a pizza for you at Romeo's. The chain offers a range of housemade pizza creations, including favorites like Ranch Lovers Buffalo Chicken, the Butcher Shop (meat lovers), or the Veggie Deluxe. If you like out-of-the-box pizza styles, then check out their more unique options like the Philly Cheesesteak pizza or their famous Great Ranch and Potato pizza, piled with spuds, ranch, caramelized onions, Italian sausage, and cheddar cheese.

On the other hand, if you consider yourself a pizza connoisseur and prefer to build your own pie, Romeo's Pizza has all the sauce, meat, and veggie topping options you could hope for. The chain also offers deep dish-style pizza, gluten-free and cauliflower crusts, loaded crust pizza, and large sheet pan pizzas for when you need to feed a crowd.

The menu offers more than just pizza

If pizza isn't your thing, order from Romeo's, and there's no need to skip the party. That's because Romeo's serves a whole lot more than pizza. The chain offers an expansive menu filled with Italian-inspired favorites and American classics that will satisfy any appetite. Among the options are cheesy stuffed calzones and stromboli, as well as traditional and boneless wings, which are the perfect pairing for your next big game night. There's also a menu of fully loaded submarine sandwiches from your basic Italian cold cut combo to a decadent meatball sub topped with marinara sauce and a Wisconsin cheese blend.

To make your meal complete, Romeo's offers a selection of salads and starters. And make sure to save room for dessert, too. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with a batch of chocolate chunk cookies or try Romeo's freshly baked extreme cinnamon breadsticks, served warm and drizzled with vanilla icing.

Romeo's pizza has won numerous awards

In its 20 years of business, Romeo's has racked up a whole shelf full of awards for its signature style of pizza. And it didn't take long for the recognition to come. Just a year after getting started, Romeo's was named Best Pizza in the Midwest at the North American Pizza and Ice Cream Show (via Food & Drink Magazine). Since then, it's gone on to win the award on multiple occasions. Romeo's has also won the People's Choice award for the Best Pizza in Columbus for several years at Slice of Columbus, the city's annual charity pizza tasting event. 

Beyond Ohio, the chain can also boast multiple national pizza awards (via 1851 Franchise). Additionally, Romeo's signature Great Ranch and Potato Pizza — which, Franchise Times notes, was actually created by the company's founder for a pizza-making contest  — was named the Best Gourmet Pizza at America's Plate, a competition held in New York (via QSR Magazine).

The secret to Romeo's Pizza is the sauce

In a world where pizza is so beloved and chains serving them are a dime a dozen, you have to do something to stand out from the crowd. That's especially true if you're racking up awards and putting two decades of service under your belt.

For Romeo's Pizza, their self-proclaimed secret to success lies in their signature sauce (via Romeo's). It starts with "sweet California tomatoes" which are "harvested at the peak of vine-ripened perfection and fresh-packed from field to can in 10 hours." But what really makes the sauce stand out, besides the freshness, is the flavor. The exact recipe and ingredients are a mystery, but it's noticeably sweeter than the norm. In fact, some say it's the sweetest sauce they've had on a pizza (via Reddit).

It's also worth noting that, according to Romeo's current CEO Ryan Rose, "customers who suffer from acid reflux tend to prefer Romeo's sauce as it allows them to enjoy pizza without any negative side effects" (via 1851 Franchise).

Romeo's Pizza is all about the community

Whenever you buy your next meal at Romeo's Pizza, you can feel good knowing that you're supporting more than just a pizza chain. Romeo's makes it clear that it wants to be known for much more than just its pizza creations and signature sauce. The chain refers to itself as a purpose-driven "pizza community" that brings people together for good food and good causes, and it works hard to be transparent about that goal.

Romeo's details a number of ongoing community partnerships with national charity organizations on its website and highlights its local community involvement on its blog. Their outreach efforts span the charitable spectrum. From hosting fundraisers and donating to food banks (via 1851 Franchise), to providing lunch for students and supporting local youth programs, to getting hands-on building homes with Habitat for Humanity (via Medina Gazette), the company works hard to deliver on one of its most important core values. Romeo's was particularly involved in supporting first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. And from a corporate standpoint, the company has a record of championing employee-focused causes (via QSR Magazine).

Romeo's also says it is dedicated to having a positive impact on the environment. Since 2019, Romeo's has worked to replace all plastic packaging for its starters and salads with compostable packaging that's more eco-friendly. Pizza Marketplace reports that as of April 2021, Romeo's has removed more than 2 million plastic packages overall.

Romeo's Pizza has been featured on Food Network

Romeo's Pizza cemented itself as a leader in the pizza world early on when it was featured on television. Founder Sean Brauser competed on the Food Network's "Pizza Challenge" in 2005, facing off against other self-proclaimed pizza masters from around the country for a chance to win $10,000. While Brauser took home third place, he told Franchise Times that the notoriety was still enough to help Romeo's start growing.

The recipe that helped him wow the judges? Brauser's take on a meat lover's pizza. Called the Butcher Shop pizza, it's loaded up with pepperoni, bacon, ham, Italian sausage, and meatballs, then smothered with grated provolone cheese. The recipe is still up on Food Network's website if you want to give it a shot. Or you can save yourself the trouble and order it direct from Romeo's, where it's still on the menu today.

Don't expect thorough nutrition facts from Romeo's

If you're in the practice of counting calories and paying close attention to other nutrition facts, Romeo's Pizza might be a little frustrating for you. The restaurant provides very little information when it comes to what's in its food. Romeo's website does offer a one-page list of calorie counts for its menu items, but even that is very limited. Beyond calories, there is no other health information listed — no fat, protein, or carbs figures, not to mention, a rundown of ingredients. Furthermore, the calorie counts listed are for slices of pizza, ranging from small to extra large, but not for Romeo's whole pizzas. 

Health sites like My Fitness Pal do their best to fill in the gaps, with more complete nutritional info on at least some of Romeo's menu items. But otherwise, it might be better to just call it a cheat day and indulge when you plan to order from Romeo's.

Romeo's Pizza offers a plant-based menu item

Romeo's Pizza truly has something for everyone, from meat lovers to vegans to everything in between. That's even more true since the company partnered with Beyond Meat to offer plant-based chicken tenders on its appetizer menu. You can also order the tenders to add on to any pizza, sandwich, or salad at Romeo's.

Romeo's notes that this partnership is about more than just adding another delicious item to the menu. "Taking care of the environment is something that has always been important to us as an organization," said Romeo's Chief Strategy Officer Mike Rao in an interview with QSR Magazine. "Partnering with Beyond Meat to add our first plant-based meat menu item will allow us to continue living our core values as we offer more environmentally friendly and health-conscious items moving forward."

It's worth noting that the Beyond Meat chicken tenders are currently only available at Romeo's Pizza locations in Ohio. It's not clear if and when the offering will expand to Romeo's other locations around the country.

There's always a coupon for Romeo's Pizza

If you only need one reason to visit your nearest Romeo's Pizza, it's this: You can always get a deal. On any given day, at any Romeo's Pizza location, you can get several discounts when you order online. Currently, there are offers for $3 off any order of $15 or more, $5 off any order of $25 or more, and $7 off any order of $30 or more. You can simply redeem the coupons through the website any time you order Romeo's.

And if you consider yourself a big Romeo's fan, you can put that loyalty to work and earn Pizza Points through Romeo's rewards program. You earn a point for every dollar spent at the restaurant, online or in-store, and get a $10 reward for every 100 points you earn. That means you could be earning cash for every five or six pizzas you order at Romeo's. There's a good excuse for a pizza night.