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Why a pizza chain has big plans for Tampa Bay

Mark Parker



A recently signed franchising agreement will bring new Little Caesars restaurants to St. Petersburg and Tampa. Photo provided.

Little Caesars, the world’s third-largest pizza chain, recently announced that Tampa Bay is at the center of ambitious plans to open over 30 new restaurants in seven states.

Founded in 1959, Detroit-based Little Caesars now boasts establishments in all 50 states and 28 countries and territories. However, St. Petersburg is home to just one of the company’s fast-casual restaurants.

That will soon change as a local woman-owned franchisee group signed a five-unit agreement to support regional development through 2027. Patrick Cunningham, vice president of U.S. Development for Little Caesars, told the Catalyst that migration and demographic trends influenced the brand’s decision.

“The Tampa-St. Petersburg market is one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., with many business professionals, families and young adults moving to this part of Florida,” Cunningham said. “With this growth in population comes an increased demand for convenient, on-the-go dining options at an affordable price, and Little Caesars offers exactly that.”

Patrick Cunningham, vice president of U.S. Development for Little Caesars.

He called the local franchisees a “dynamic and talented” duo. Jocelyn Monperousse and Lissete Isabel co-own Tampa-based RJBL Pizza and recently opened Bradenton’s first traditional Little Caesar’s restaurant.

Cunningham confirmed that St. Pete and Tampa will also receive new locations. Some could be a new prototype – Little Caesar’s PODs – which the company builds at an offsite factory. He said the decision remains undecided.

The POD program launched in December 2023 with a modular restaurant in Iowa. The roughly 1,000-square-foot units require less space in densely populated areas and have a quicker construction and permitting timeline.

Isabel said Little Caesars offered a lower franchisee entry cost, “best-in-class” training and ongoing corporate support. “Also, they are the best in value in terms of price for customers, and it’s a brand that resonates with us and customers.”

Like Cunningham, Isabel noted the area features “robust demographics, a growing population and plenty of white spaces (market gaps) to grow and succeed in.” Cunningham said the local operators are “a great representation” of the company’s values.

He said the company’s founders instilled a “strong culture of kindness” when growing a single family-owned restaurant into a global chain. Cunningham noted that Little Caesars launched its Love Kitchen, a semi-truck that travels the nation feeding people overcoming challenging situations, in 1985.

“So, our goal is to grow our brand with like-minded franchisees who have a passion for giving back to their communities,” he added. “Whether that’s providing food to people without housing, disaster survivors or others in need.”

The Little Caesars “Love Kitchen.”

The announcement comes amid myriad reports of consumers eschewing traditional fast-food options due to increasing costs. The sole St. Petersburg location on 22nd Avenue North offers a “Hot-N-Ready” large pepperoni pizza for $7.48 – after tax.

Cunningham expressed excitement to connect with local entrepreneurs and experienced franchise operators to discuss investing in the company and “why this brand makes perfect sense here.” He also noted that soaring land values around Tampa Bay and the nation could hinder growth.

However, Cunningham said the company’s real estate team provides franchisees with tools, resources and connections needed to identify specific sites. He also believes that operational efficiencies and smaller footprint stores help Little Caesars navigate market fluctuations and provide “affordable meals to families without sacrificing value, convenience or quality.”

In addition to Tampa Bay, the company intends to open several new locations throughout San Diego, Memphis, Raleigh, Minneapolis and San Antonio. Multi-unit franchising opportunities remain – including in non-traditional venues like universities, water parks, airports and stadiums.

Cunningham stressed that Monperousse and Isabel intend to contribute to the communities surrounding their five upcoming restaurants and are “making strides in the traditionally male-dominated” franchising industry. “Their story serves as an inspiration to aspiring women business owners everywhere, and we are proud to have them represent Little Caesars.”








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