In the second edition of Building the Brand, meet Sean Ammori, chief executive officer – Ambros Foods. Ambros Foods is a family-owned Pizza Hut U.S. franchise that operates multiple locations in the Detroit and Boston areas that first started during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Since 2020, they’ve seen consistent store growth and haven’t faltered on their motto – people come first, always.
Sean, tell us about yourself and how Ambros Foods got started.
Ambros Foods was founded by myself, my brother Matthew, and our father Omar. Our family has been in the retail industry since our dad purchased his first convenience store in the late 1980s. Currently, our father is the co-founder of T-Mobile’s largest retail partner in the U.S. – Wireless Vision. My dad has an extensive background in real estate development, site selection and construction. I have developed ground-up retail properties and have overseen the operations and growth of multiple retail partnerships under Wireless Vision’s portfolio. My brother, Matthew, has managed accounting and finance for the business and has brought extensive back-office knowledge. Since the three of us have unique skillsets, we were able to grow our company successfully. But it hasn’t just been our company that’s grown, our relationship to each other has also grown. There aren’t many people who are lucky to spend every day working with their family while doing something they love.
When did you become a Pizza Hut franchisee? Why Pizza Hut?
Ambros Foods became a Pizza Hut franchisee in September 2020. Yes, in the middle of the pandemic. We were intrigued by the Brand’s marketing strategy and what seemed to be a revitalization – which we were correct about. Not only did we love where the Brand was headed, but we loved what it brought to the table. A real openness to work with their franchisees and continuously pivot on strategy during a time where the world had unlimited uncertainty. Pizza Hut is a brand that my brother and I have loved growing up, and we’ve enjoyed seeing a boost in the Brand’s traction and modernization of the business model. We always say – it was love at first slice. We have been blessed to have purchased 24 locations in Michigan and Massachusetts, with so much more opportunity to grow.
What is Ambros Foods’ growth strategy and how did you grow your business successfully during a world pandemic?
Our growth strategy is very simple – focus on the customer’s experience and nothing else. As a family, we have used our resources in our back-office to cover ground that most operators would leave in the field. We modernized our digital marketing strategy and buried the old forms like print, radio, etc., and really pushed customers to the Pizza Hut app. Our hours of operation put us above others, with our stores remaining open while others were closing. We also use our team to manage facilities and preventative maintenance which allows operators to focus on the customer. We’ve invested in upselling, focused in the store on product quality, and honed in on customer satisfaction – which has helped with our growth.
I also think it’s worth noting that the use of third-party aggregators changed our restaurants’ business. Our business took a dip in early 2022, but with the help of the aggregators, we have seen immense growth. We have a constantly changing strategy that pivots to the current state of the consumer. It keeps our restaurants fresh of mind and helps keep our restaurants above the competition.
What’s the Pizza Hut® experience like at one of your restaurants?
As mentioned before, Ambros Foods’ focus is around technology and the customer experience. We have great management teams in place, marketing strategies that complement our future, and have created a culture that allows for internal growth. We are investing in our restaurant locations that make the point-of-purchase (POP) attractive, creating strategies at the counters around upselling sodas and desserts. You will also see hot boxes full of pizza ready for third-party aggregators. We’re proud to say that, at Ambros Foods, you will always see a focus on high energy, fantastic quality, and great looking food.
Small things help put Ambros Foods above the rest like clean uniforms and soda coolers that are always full. You can probably catch any member of our ownership team filling the soda coolers on a visit. In Michigan, we are in the most competitive pizza market in the country. Although we don’t have as many stores as our competitors in the market, we are out-operating and out-hustling in the customer experience. It’s simple – we went back to the basics on retailing, coaching, and customer service.
What do you look for in leaders within your organization?
At Ambros Foods, our successful leaders combine a list of qualities to help empower our employees and keep everyone focused on our common goal – our customers. Qualities include:
How does Ambros Foods engage its employees and develop them?
We’ve created a culture at Ambros Foods that opens the line of communication to the ownership group without any fear of criticism. We enjoy the feedback and look to constantly move forward and improve our business. Ways we have opened the line of communication include:
How is Ambros Foods involved in the community?
Our father, Omar, came to America from Iraq in 1969. Our family is Chaldean Catholic immigrants and have been involved in events on behalf of the Chaldean Catholic churches, donating pizzas for numerous events. We take pride in assisting and representing refugees from our former villages in Iraq, helping to build a stronger community for our community’s future. We also sponsor events and donate pizzas for Rebuild Detroit, a volunteer program that is helping rebuild condemned buildings and areas that lack resources within the city. Through the holiday season, we partner with local groups to participate in local toy drives and help purchase turkeys to handout for Thanksgiving.
What’s next for Ambros Foods?
For now, we are looking at organic growth as well as acquisitions. Currently, we have multiple new builds and renovations coming in 2023/2024. We’re focusing on innovating our business through technology and operational strategies. Our goal, separate from the customer experience, is to be a good franchisee with the hope of strengthening the Pizza Hut Brand in Michigan and Massachusetts.