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This Pizza Chain Just Started a 4-Year Paid ‘University’

Is traditional college not your thing? Are you not mechanically inclined, so technical school is out? Do you have an unbeatable work ethic? You might want to consider Rosati’s University, an approximately four-year paid training program designed to allow prospective Rosati’s Pizza franchisees to learn how to run a Rosati’s Pizza location and eventually become part owners of a franchise.

“Instead of having somebody come in and just learn just how to make pizza, we want them to learn the entire business,” says Jay Rosati, the great-grandson of one of the founders and the brand’s head of career development.

Interested in learning more? Explore Rosati’s Pizza franchise ownership today.

Related: Considering franchise ownership? Get started now to find your personalized list of franchises that match your lifestyle, interests and budget.

Finding leaders

Founded in 1964 in the Chicago area and franchising since 2006, Rosati’s Pizza has nearly 125 U.S. locations. Jay Rosati, who worked in the trucking brokerage industry after graduating college, saw that the family business had trouble identifying good franchise candidates as it grew.

In April 2023, Rosati formulated a plan to identify, train and incentivize the best workers the company could find. The idea of Rosati’s University, which the company had laid out but never developed, became a reality. Initially, Rosati wanted to go to job fairs and colleges to recruit for the unique program, but his father, Rosati’s Pizza’s CEO, had other ideas.

“He told me I needed to go to high schools,” Rosati says. He adds that it makes sense because the company is looking for young people who don’t necessarily have experience or money but have a burning desire to build and succeed. The Rosati’s University curriculum follows a basic, roughly four-year schedule.

Basic training

Like the military, Rosati’s five-week “basic training” program teaches candidates to be ideal employees from the bottom up. It also allows the company and the candidate to feel each other out to see if there is a real fit. This paid training includes everything from order entry to order creation as candidates learn the key principles of working for the brand at one of Rosati’s corporate stores.

“We run them through the wringer,” Rosati says. “They go through every aspect of how it is to work at a Rosati’s, 40 hours a week, one week at a time, to see where they’re at.”

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Rosati’s University

Following basic training, candidates enter Rosati’s University, where they attend paid classes broken down into eight 12-week increments covering the fundamentals of business operations. The basic courses include accounting, operations and other business-focused classes. Candidates are paired with mentors and required to take an exam at the end of each 12-week unit to advance to the next.

“For the first six weeks, you’re paired with someone like me, who gives you the knowledge and ability,” Rosati says. “The next six, you will do it yourself, under supervision.”

By the time candidates graduate from Rosati’s University, they’re expected to have a certain level of expertise, Rosati says. “We expect them to be a basic employee that can do anything in a store. We could call them in for a shift to fill any role, anywhere, and they can do it for the whole day, unsupervised.”

As an added incentive, candidates receive a pay increase of $.25 per hour for every course they complete.

Management training

After successfully completing the initial two years of coursework, candidates begin an additional two years of management training. Although all facets of the training are important, management training is where candidates learn to run their own Rosati’s Pizza franchise. During this part of the program, candidates work at corporate headquarters and learn high-level skills such as marketing, accounting and finance.

During this phase, candidates also work as assistant managers at a store under experienced general managers.

“We train them to be not just managers — hiring, firing, scheduling, making sure all the products are right,” Rosati says, “but also owners — learning how to do labor reports, learning how to understand the finance and market research of your trade area, etc.”

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After completing the Rosati’s University program, graduates are eligible for consideration for part ownership in a Rosati’s franchise, using special financing provided by the company. This method allows the new owner to pay off their portion of the business while working and drawing a salary from their Rosati’s location.

Rosati hopes that the enthusiasm he’s seen so far continues — approximately 10 candidates are in various stages of the program despite it being less than a year old. Provided it keeps attracting the right candidates, he expects Rosati’s University to continue growing — with the same end goal in mind.

“This is all leading towards them being a business owner,” Rosati says. “So we’re constantly reiterating that you’re not just a pizza-maker, you’re not just the general manager, you’re going to be an owner.”

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