Happy Joe's is the iconic, rapidly growing pizza-and-ice cream chain that focuses on bringing its gourmet menu of pizza offerings and family-focused festive environment to guests around the world. Founded in 1972 in Iowa, the chain has won numerous awards and recently broke its revenue and sales records while celebrating its 50th anniversary. Helmed by industry veteran Tom Sacco, who serves as CEO and Chief Happiness Officer, Happy Joe's underwent a massive digital transformation over the last year or so, partnering with nationwide delivery service Goldbelly, revamping its online ordering portal with SpeedDine, building out loyalty rewards and engagement programs with Punchh to drive new customer acquisition and outreach in new markets, redesigning the website with White Unicorn, and rebranding the restaurant look, feel, and functionality under the tutelage of UK based Harrison Architect & Design firm.
While discussing this digital transformation, Tom Sacco said, 'Improving our digital capabilities has been a top priority for our team heading into our 50th anniversary year. That means keeping our technology up to date. We're excited to see our numbers continue to grow in 2022 and look forward to what's to come during the year of our biggest birthday yet.'
Much of Happy Joe's successful 2021 and 2022 were thanks to strong same-store sales, higher year-on-year revenue, new franchise openings, and better tech-driven tools, processes, and client engagement. The chain signed 34 new franchise agreements over the last year or so and even opened new outlets in new international markets - most notably in the upscale suburb of Roxy in Cairo, Egypt.
Helping People Celebrate Throughout the Year
With a strong focus on delivering family-friendly and memorable experiences, Happy Joe's has had eight consecutive quarters of positive sales growth across in-house, curbside, drive-thru, and dine-in ordering. Tom Sacco said: 'We can't wait to create magical moments that last a lifetime in more cities throughout the world.'
What that means for customers is that they can look forward to custom, event-based treats, and offerings throughout the year.
For example, to commemorate Halloween, Happy Joe's offered what they called 'scary-good' Jack-o'-Lantern pizzas with pepperoni cut into Jack-o-Lanterns and free Little Joe pizzas to children dressed up as Happy Joe. According to Tom Sacco, 'There's no better place to unwind after a busy evening of trick-or-treating than Happy Joe's. We love giving our guests unique and exciting experiences every time they walk in, and Halloween will be even more special than usual. Our Jack-o'-Lantern Pizza is sure to put smiles on kids' faces, with their pizza smiling back at them.'
October was also National Pizza and Pasta Month, which Happy Joe's celebrated with a special array of menu items, not to mention its Bavarian Beer-Cheese Salted Pretzel Crust Pizza, which was released to celebrate Oktoberfest. Regarding the new items and new German-themed offerings, Tom Sacco said: 'We can't wait to roll out our new Bavarian menu items. There is nothing we love more at Happy Joe's than giving our guests exciting, unique additions to our iconic menu, and the Bavarian pizza, pasta, and pretzel bites are truly one-a-kind. Plus, October is both National Pizza Month and National Pasta Month, so there couldn't be a better time to try these delicious creations and celebrate our favorite month of the year!
During the summer, Happy Joe's had its special 'Summeroni Pizza' celebration and celebrated Father's Day with an endless Buffet in June. Guests at select locations even had the chance to win free pizza for a year. Tom Sacco said: 'Every father and father figure deserves a feast, and Happy Joe's provides the perfect pizza and party paradise for the occasion. We can't wait to celebrate all the dads out there and give away free pizza for a year!' In May, Happy Joe's celebrated Hispanic heritage and Mexi-Fest by offering Mexican pizzas and other themed items such as the Matador, Nacho Joe Supreme, and Taco pizzas, and May also saw Happy Joe's Mother's Day celebrations with many of the same offerings as Father's Day up for grabs.
Happy Joe's celebrations extend far beyond annual events, however. The franchise invites people to make lasting memories for their graduates with an array of award-winning options for everyone, and birthdays and anniversaries are also frequently celebrated at Happy Joe's. According to Tom Sacco, 'At Happy Joe's, it's all about the emotional connection we create with our fans. We pride ourselves on providing a fun, family-friendly atmosphere that's perfect for making amazing memories with your loved ones before they start their next adventure. Our timeless pizza party paradise is the perfect place to celebrate life's most memorable moments, and we can't wait to help recent grads feel extra special this graduation season.'
Outside Sales Continue to Shine
Events-based growth aside, Happy Joe's has continued to see an increase in overall sales driven by the launch of loyalty rewards, a revamped mobile order process, and the addition of innovative menu offerings. Happy Joe's delivery sales accounted for 35% of overall sales in Q1 of 2022, with takeout accounting for 38% of sales. Strong diversification such as this is unusual for brands such as Happy Joe's, which are built on a dine-in, family-focused reputation. However, it seems the company's investments in tech-based outreach and growth are paying off, with new and existing customers seemingly very ready to embrace the company's in-house, curbside, and takeout services.
With a new loyalty program in place alongside an easier ordering process from its mobile app and web platforms, guests can enjoy faster, hassle-free ordering and delivery. When their pizzas arrive, they are hot and fresh since Happy Joe's uses an insulated hot bag with a portable and custom-designed heat box to deliver a straight-from-the-oven taste.
Speaking about this phenomenon, Tom Sacco said: 'Being able to tap into that Happy Joe's feeling with a bite of our delicious Taco Joe or Chicken Hot Wing Pizza is what we're trying to recreate whether you're in our restaurant or at home, in Iowa, Florida, or Cairo. We want to give our guests as many ways to place their orders and enjoy those moments as possible. At the same time, we want to give our operators the best tools to maximize their revenue streams in an ever-changing, hyper-competitive environment.'
These new upgrades are all part of the chain's continued expansion efforts across the United States and in several international markets. Multiple new franchises have been launched in Cairo, Egypt, with tentative plans for the addition of several dozen new franchises across the Middle East over the next decade in the making.
Happy Joe's and the Future
Over the last 18 months, Happy Joe's signed more franchise agreements and opened more new locations than during the entire previous decade. The company turned 50 in November, opened the first new Egypt location in July, and underwent a design and branding rollout this year. With a relentless focus on family connections, Happy Joe's is built to celebrate any and all family events. Happy Joe's services extend to school and community groups as well, and the company differentiates itself by looking at pizza as a creative, innovative, and unique food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even dessert.
The company attributes much of its success to being one of only a handful of worldwide brands that connect emotionally with its guests. Furthermore, it is a very different type of pizza brand, one in which each pizza is looked at as a blank canvas with no restrictions on toppings or what can be done with the pizza. The company is still growing thanks to the leadership and vision of Tom Sacco and the management team. The brand has an iconic past that families value now more than ever.
One of the main challenges facing the company is reaching the critical mass needed to sustain long-term growth. With more franchises and a better, more robust platform and tech infrastructure to support that growth, the company believes it can continue on its current trajectory and deliver its gourmet menu and unique entertainment proposition to guests across the country and the world. Getting to where it is now has been a journey, but for anyone who has visited Happy Joe's in the past, it has been one well worth it.