For Wingstop Star, Pizza Patron Growth a Struggle
Charles Loflin of San Antonio operates 80 Wingstops and also owns the 92-unit Pizza Patron.
August 27 is a special day for Charles Loflin, he says, because on that day in 1998 he bought his first Wingstop location, which he’s now built to 80 stores to become the largest operator in the system.
It’s also the day in 2016 when the founder of both Wingstop and Pizza Patron, Antonio Swad, threw a party at his home in Dallas and Loflin learned Swad wanted to sell the latter. (Swad had sold Wingstop in 2003.) Loflin bought it in December of that year, and has since found how difficult it is to build a franchise.
“Absolutely” it’s different to become a franchisor after 20 years as a franchisee, he told Franchise Times in a wide-ranging interview last week, including lessons he’s learned about leadership that will be detailed in an upcoming print edition.
“I wish I had all the answers,” said Loflin, about how to grow Pizza Patron. “As a franchisee, I think I’m the greatest franchisee Wingstop has ever had. I don’t mean to say that cocky. I built a team around me. I’ll put my guys, men and women, up against anybody. And they help me do this.”
At Pizza Patron, he’s been making numerous changes. “Nothing is the same in Patron. We’ve had to change everything. Antonio is brilliant when it comes to starting franchises,” he said, referring to Antonio Swad. “I think Wingstop will go down as one of the best franchises of all time. He has a habit of getting the stores to 100 locations and then he’s done. He can’t take it any further.”
(Indeed, Swad sold Wingstop when it had about 100 units; now publicly held, it has more than 1,000 locations today.)
One problem in Loflin’s view is that Pizza Patron was “pigeonholed” in low-income areas. “We have an image, it’s only $4.99” for a pizza, so people think it’s “horrible pizza. $4.99, how good can it be? When that’s not the truth at all. We make fresh dough every day. We use the same brand of cheese that all the big guys use.”
He wants to change that image. “We are focusing on being a Latino-inspired pizza restaurant that serves everybody in every market,” Loflin said, adding he is fluent in Spanish because he grew up in Brownsville, “as far south as you can go in Texas.”
He said Pizza Patron had become “pretty stagnant. We haven’t taken on a single brand partner in 20 months, because I don’t have anything to show you,” he said. “However this comes out it comes out. I have 80 Wingstops. I live a phenomenal lifestyle.
“I bought Pizza Patron to see if I’m as good as I think I can be to help build this brand into something special, and that’s what we’re trying to do, not to put another dime in my pocket.”