Category Archives: Donatos

Donatos…Chapter Three

It’s hard to believe that Friday wrapped up my third year already of working for Donatos at the home office.  And, this year was definitely one that put the emphasis on the field in my title of Field Marketing Manager.

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You know you travel a lot when you show up on the airport digital board

When the year began for me, we as a brand were just launching our newest store in midtown Nashville.  This was my first new store opening process and it was great to be in on the ground level from day one in this fun city.  I ended up making numerous visits to check on this store over the year to the point that the great staff at the Courtyard by Marriott Vanderbilt/West End became like family to me and even had my same room ready for each and every visit.  🙂  Thanks, ZsuZsa, Kim, Gary and the rest of the team!  I earned those Marriott Rewards Platinum and Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards A-List statuses.

13668981_550920975098330_6019336125809047661_nAs the Nashville store began to get established and I continued working with all the existing stores and franchise partners, we also made plans for our next new store to open in Summerville, S.C. (left).  It ended up opening at the end of July and let me just say that going around town making business visits is not as much fun when it’s 100 degrees and you are dripping sweat.  Each market presents its own unique opportunities and the town of Summerville is filled with great people we get the chance to meet and share our great food with.  Our franchise partners there are a joy to work with and are out spreading the word about Donatos each and every day.

As the fall approached, it was time to figure out how to gain the business of college students as they came back to school in our markets with stores by universities.  One whirlwind day that seems typical of the year had me helping serve pizza to the 7,700 incoming freshmen at The Ohio State University inside Ohio Stadium (below) at lunch time and then flying to Nashville to feed over 1,000 incoming freshmen at Belmont University that evening.  Fun times!

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For the second straight year, I also had the privilege of running the Donatos summer-long 13-week contest that saw one of our guests win $1,000 each week and also pick a charity to receive $1,000.  It was such a privilege to hear the great stories of our guests as to why they picked the charity that they did and also to connect with these great organizations who are doing so much to benefit others.  I am extremely grateful to work for a company that believes in giving back.

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One other moment of giving to others that was a highlight of my year was getting to attend the Ohio State-Michigan game with three families (above) who had been touched by pediatric cancer.  It was great to be able to let them have this experience and boy did the game turn out pretty exciting with a double overtime win by the Buckeyes that included all of us on the field afterwards.

Two other highlights of the year for me was getting stories of our associates told on local TV stations in both the Nashville and Virginia Beach markets.  The story of Barbie Henry, one of our first hires in Nashville, aired in July and the story of Diego Roma from our Newport News, Va. store aired in November.

As the end of the fiscal year approached, I visited each of my franchise partners over the course of about seven weeks to begin making plans for the 2017 year.  While all this travel could get cumbersome, I try to make the most of it by finding great running routes and making new friends in all the cities that I visit.  I managed to get sunrise or sunset pictures in 9 different states this year while also running in such beautiful places as Lexington, Ky., Newport News, Va., Charleston, S.C., Charlotte, N.C., Nashville and Seabrook Island, S.C.  For those who think that it is too hard to exercise while traveling, I beg to differ.  I logged 3,018 miles running during my third year at Donatos and ran both the Boston Marathon and the Chicago Marathon while also doing four half marathons including lowering my PR three times!

The final two months of my third year at Donatos have been spent focusing heavily on the opening of our newest store in Owensboro, Ky. (below).  I knew from the start that these guys were going to be fun as they were heavily connected in their community and really understood the importance of relationships in selling pizza.  Well, they have been open for one month now and that town has just embraced the store, our product and the partners to the tune of the best first month of any store in company history!

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It seems fitting that in a year that saw me spend 70 nights in hotels while traveling that I wrapped it up in South Carolina working out the delivery area for a store in Boiling Springs that will open in a few months.  It should be an exciting year for Donatos with that store and two others (Bowling Green, Ky. and Murfreesboro, Tenn.) opening in the next couple of months along with possibly others as the year moves along.

As I put the wraps on my third year at Donatos, I have to say that it was my most challenging but also my most rewarding year yet.  It can be stressful at times trying to figure out exactly what works in each new market and also balancing life on the road while also having a personal life outside of work.  However, I feel like I grew more professionally and personally this year than ever before and I can’t wait to attack the challenges and new opportunities ahead in year number four.  #PizzawithPassion

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The Donatos Journey – Chapter Two

It almost doesn’t seem possible that today marks my second anniversary of starting to work for Donatos.  It seems like just yesterday that I came to the home office on Taylor Station Road in Gahanna for my first day, but yet at the same time it also seems like I’ve been here for so much longer.

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The sunrise view from inside the Donatos home office (top) and the outside reflection

The first year was all about getting my feet wet, learning the culture and getting to know the great people who make up the Donatos family from the talented home office associates to the successful franchise partners we work with every day.

It is so much fun to look back on the second year and reflect on how much I have grown in my position as a field marketing manager over the past 365 days as well as reminiscing on some of the special moments that occurred during the year.

First of all, our raving fans deserve tremendous praise for the way they supported us during 2015.  Our 2014 fiscal year had been one of the best in company history and we topped it again in 2015.  Not only is this a testament to the great product that we make and the hard work of all the associates who work at every level to put us in a position for success, it still boils down to our guests choosing to spend their money on the products that we make and allowing us to be a part of so many special events and moments in their lives.  For that, we all say a huge THANK YOU!

I had the awesome opportunity during the summer of 2015 to represent Donatos as the person implementing our 13-week Summer of Your Life campaign.  This was a weekly contest where our guests could sign up by text or email to enter for an opportunity to win $1,000.  The really cool part of this contest was that each winner would then select the charity of their choice to which Donatos would also make a $1,000 donation.  It was so much fun drawing the number of the person from the thousands of entries and making the phone call which usually involved a lot of disbelief until I was finally able to convince them that they had really won.  There were too many cool stories to list here, but it was such an honor and a privilege to represent this great company and watch as we collectively made a difference.

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11 of the 13 winners in the Summer of Your Life contest

Another fun moment for me during this past year was representing Donatos before an Ohio State home football game at a Buckeyes Care event that saw 2,000 people enjoy our pizza and other activities before then taking in the OSU game against Western Michigan.  It was fun to see so many kids excited to go to their very first game…and I was one of them!  After nearly 44 years, I also was able to walk into Ohio Stadium and watch the Buckeyes post a victory.  We were able to be a part of providing both a great lunch and a great opportunity for so many that day…it was great!

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Brutus and I made sure all the attendees at the Buckeyes Care event had plenty of pizza

As the calendar flipped from 2015 to 2016, much of my time has been spent helping with the opening of our newest store in Nashville, Tenn.  Up until that point, I had not been part of a new store opening, so once again I was learning a bunch of new information and tactics.  I have to say that it has been a great experience for me personally to go through this process as I had the opportunity to work some people who up to this point I had not gotten to know.  It is amazing the amount of talent that we have in our company and the passion with which our associates do their jobs.  While there were many speed bumps along the way to opening day for that store, seeing the outpouring of love and support from our raving fans once again reminded me why I choose to do this job every day!

With as many trips to Nashville as I made during the last quarter of this year, it has almost become like a second home to me.  Such a fun city filled with great people.  And we are working hard to make all of them Donatos raving fans.  I definitely want to say a big thanks to Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN for their support of the new store there and especially all of the Donatos Nashville love they have spread via their social media accounts.  It is invaluable!  I also really appreciate the relationships that have developed with Kim Alexander and the great staff at the Courtyard by Marriott Vanderbilt/West End location…they have become like family and it has become my favorite place to stay while traveling for work.  Once again, it is all about the relationships.  And having really good pizza always helps with getting them started.  🙂

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From left:  Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts with Jim Grote, Tom Krouse, and Jane Grote Abell outside the newest Donatos in Nashville before the VIP event

All of this work has not taken away from my running.  In fact, I have used running to make new friends in the places that I visit who in turn I convert into Donatos fans.  I did not log as many miles running this year, but that was due to spending 12 weeks in a boot after breaking my foot in August.  It was still a great year from a running perspective as I had the opportunity to complete my first Boston Marathon and then followed that up by running my first 50K.  I did miss out on six races during the time that I was recovering from the injury, but I finished this work year strong with an 18-mile run in Nashville the morning of our VIP party prior to that store opening.  I have run with the Brentwood Breakfast Club and the Nashville Striders while in town as well as total strangers and a Vanderbilt ROTC group.  Running actually helps me get to know the areas around our stores better than driving around them in a car.

As I start my third year today, I already have 3 trips planned over the next three weeks which will have me visiting our stores in Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky as well as the site for our next new store in Summerville, S.C.  It is going to be an extremely busy year with lots of new adventures and some new cities.  Buckle up and join me on the journey!

 

365 Days of Donatos Pizza

1yrworkWow, where did the last year go?  As I sit in my hotel room tonight and reflect on the past 365 days, I realize how much has happened since I made a major career path change and joined the Donatos Pizza family on February 25, 2014.

After 20 years in the college sports information world, I made the jump to the marketing department of a strong and growing regional pizza company with zero experience in the restaurant industry aside from that as a consumer.  The folks at Donatos saw things in me that they liked and felt like they could teach me what I didn’t know, so they gave me a chance to prove myself.

I will say that after that first day on the job I was extremely overwhelmed and wondered more than a little bit what I had gotten myself into as I had an entirely different set of jargon to learn as well as new policies and procedures.  However, thanks to some sage advice from a close friend to be patient and give myself time to learn the ropes and the guidance of a truly great boss in Tom Santor every day brought me a little more confidence and belief that I had made a great choice.

I am really blessed to work with some very talented people in the Marketing Department at Donatos who have patiently helped me learn the ropes.  In addition to Tom, I have really appreciated all the help that Natalie, Ann, Katie, Staci, Carolyn, and our interns have given me to help me succeed in what I’m doing.  It’s truly a team effort, but I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by some serious all stars.  And our strong senior leadership team and the rest of the home office associates have all been a pleasure to work with and get to know.

I’m really happy to report that Donatos had one of its best years in 2014 and it was fun to be a part of that.  I work primarily with franchise-owned stores out of state, and it was a pleasure to get to know some great people who believe in our brand so much that they’ve invested their life savings in it to be a part of us.  I can honestly say that I’ve learned something from each of the partners that I work with and I’m thankful for their patience in allowing me to get through my rookie season.

Traveling for work has provided some great opportunities to meet new people.  I’ve been able to connect with different members in each community and I’m starting to feel like each market is a small home away from home.  Our guests are passionate about our pizza and it’s always great to hear their stories.  One example happened just today as I was at our store in Ashland, Ky. where a group of ladies (pictured below) who worked together for 35 years meet EVERY Tuesday for lunch at our store.  It’s fun to be part of something that means so much to so many people.

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I’m also proud of the fact that we as a company give back so much to each of our local communities.  Whether it is partnering with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the Stefanie Spielman Fund for breast cancer research, or each local store supporting local causes, Donatos is committed to being a contributing member of each community we serve.

One other aspect of my new job that I wasn’t sure about when I took it was how I would fit in all of my running since I have an hour commute each way.  What is amazing is that I was actually able to run my highest mileage total ever during the past 365 days as I logged 2,623 miles and completed three marathons while also securing my first trip to the Boston Marathon with my best time ever back in September with a 3:10:25 at the Erie Marathon.  I’ve also managed to run in each of the states that I’ve visited for work and have even made running friends in some of the cities including Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier Alana Hadley in Charlotte.

So, as I put a wrap on this first 365 days at Donatos, I am excited to see what all awaits as we as a company have endless opportunities.  My first day of Year #2 should get started with a bang tomorrow when I get the privilege of recognizing one of our associates who went above and beyond at our Somerset Ky. store during a recent winter storm as well as presenting $500 to a 19-year-old college student sweepstakes winner at the same store.  And more than that, it’s just fun to see and hear the great moments that happen in peoples’ lives centered around our great pizza and other products.

Starting The Next Chapter….

(With my job change, it seemed like a good time to start a new blog with a new name since MVNUSID didn’t fit any more.  So, here’s the start of the next chapter in my journey…)

ImageOne month ago today, I received a phone call that I wasn’t expecting.  It was Mary Rauchenstein, the Vice President for People Services (what a cool and much more effective way to refer to the Human Resources department of a company) for Donatos Pizza.

Mary was calling to inform me that I was being offered a job as a field marketing manager with the company.  While I say I wasn’t expecting the call, it was actually a call that I was hoping would come, but I had started to wonder if it ever would.  I had first interviewed with Mary back in December when I didn’t really even know much about the job.  See, I hadn’t even applied for it and didn’t even know that the position existed, but I was curious to find out more.  I eventually had two more interviews with Donatos before December ended, but then the waiting game began.

Those of you who know me well know that I had been the sports information director at Mount Vernon Nazarene University for seemingly my entire life.  The role began as a senior during the 1993-1994 school year and then lasted for the next four years after graduation as the assistant SID while also serving as a resident director.  Then, in 1998, I was hired as the first full-time SID in the school’s history and the exciting journey in the college sports scene continued.  The road was filled with numerous conference titles, national tournament trips, super student-athletes and coaches, and way too many exciting moments to even begin to list.  It was an incredible job and I invested my heart and soul into the work and the people I crossed paths with.

However, the job was not without its challenges with the main one being time.  I really had no control over my time and was at the mercy of the schedule of the teams and sometimes the weather.  It was hard to plan very many personal activities during the school year and I kept missing more and more of my two daughters’ events.  So, I began to entertain the idea of looking for something different.

It’s really amazing how everything transpired.  When I met with Mary during the first interview, I knew right away that I was a long shot to get the job because I had absolutely zero business experience on paper and especially in the restaurant or food industry aside from the four years when I worked in the MVNU cafeteria to help pay my school bills.  However, we hit it off really well and she scheduled a second meeting for me.  I also got to meet Jane Grote Abell during this visit as I had tweeted her that I would be there and she encouraged me to stop by and say hello.

My second interview was with Tom Santor, who is now my direct boss.  Tom is a great guy who handles the public relations for Donatos as well as working with both the company stores and franchise business partners.  Once again, I knew that I was lacking in the experience for the job, but once again Tom and I hit it off really well and I left hopeful that I had at least made it a tough decision for them.

I was blessed once again to get called back for a third interview…this time with Tom Krouse, the president of Donatos.  We had another great meeting and I left thinking about how thoroughly impressed I was with everyone I had met during my three visits to the home office.  I knew that if things moved forward that I would have a lot to learn, but I really liked the people I was meeting and knew that it would be a tremendous opportunity for me if it ever came to fruition.

Well, a month and a half passed and I didn’t hear anything.  I checked in with Mary a couple of times and she said that the process was still on-going and that some other people had entered into the mix.  So, I tried hard to not get my hopes up too high, but deep down I really wanted a chance to pursue this new challenge.

Then, on February 7, I got Mary’s call.  I was actually in my car driving to a doctor’s appointment and couldn’t even write anything down.  She said she would send me an email with all the information I would need to make my decision and that she would follow up with a packet that would arrive on Saturday at my house.  I was pretty excited and couldn’t believe that I now had this great new opportunity that would stretch me and challenge me, but at the same time give me a tremendous opportunity for growth.  Mary said that she needed an answer by Monday.  I knew what my answer would be, but I didn’t want to tell Mary right away.

Instead, I waited until Sunday night.  I went to the local Donatos in Mount Vernon and ordered a large extra cheese pizza and then had them spell out YES! in pepperoni on it.  I snapped a picture of it when it came out of the oven and I texted it to Mary.  Pretty soon, she texted back and asked if she could share the picture with the rest of the leadership team.  It was great to feel their excitement over the fact that I had said yes.

Next came the tough part.  Turning in my resignation at MVNU on Monday was not an easy thing for me.  The people in the athletic department have been my family.  Paul Swanson, Jeana Howald, and Keith Veale have all been coaches at MVNU since before I came to college in 1990.  Brian Humphrey, the athletic trainer, was a college classmate with me and then shared many of the same long, late night hours that I did.  And the rest of the coaches and staff were people that I invested my time and energy into on a daily basis.  I also needed to let the students in the class that I was teaching know as well as the student-athletes.  However, after the initial shock wore off, I was blown away by the great outpouring of support that everyone showed as they were genuinely excited for me to have this opportunity.

Before I knew it, my final two weeks at MVNU had come and gone.  I worked hard to get as much done as possible before I left, but it seemed like there was never enough time in the day to do everything I wanted to do.  Then, on February 22, I worked my final game and I was officially done.  Special thanks to the student section for chanting my name during the first media timeout as part of my send-off.  It’s always been about the people and especially the students and that was a fun way to go out.

After having the following Monday off, I started working at Donatos on February 25.  When I walked into the home office in Gahanna, I was greeted by my boss, Tom Santor, and then quickly realized that the entire family that calls 935 Taylor Station Road their work home was there to greet me as well at the top of the stairs.  It was quite overwhelming and humbling and a cool way to start off my first day.  Lots of paperwork and introductions followed and before I knew it my first day of just my second job was in the books.

The next four work days were amazing.  Donatos has an onboarding program for all new associates over every level that requires them to work four days in one of the restaurants before they start their specific job.  So, I spent four days working at the Worthington-Galena Road location with Tom Martin and his great staff and made pizzas, subs, wings, salads, and even more importantly friendships and memories that I will not forget.  The entire staff signed an apron for me and I will keep it hanging on my office wall as a remembrance of how I started this new journey.

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I have a lot to learn with this new job.  I went from a job that I knew exactly what to expect pretty much every day to an entirely different environment where I had no point of reference.  However, I am surrounded by incredibly talented people who believe in me and want to see me succeed as well as having fun along the way.  As someone who loves and values making and maintaining relationships, I will soak up as much as I can.  And I love to work for a company whose name means “to give a good thing” when translated from Latin.  It seems like a perfect fit for me.