The Austin-based pizza franchise will celebrate its 53rd anniversary in October with an all-new location and the signing of three additional units in central Texas.
AUSTIN, Texas — This October, Texas born and raised Mr. Gatti’s Pizza will celebrate 53 years of serving pizza in Central Texas.
The two longest-serving franchise owners are now renewing the boutique’s name back to its 1969 roots and expanding their footprint in Austin.
Mr. Gatti’s Pizza was founded in 1964 as “The Pizza Place”. The company launched Mr. Gatti’s first pizza in Austin in 1969, with the name change representing a tribute to the maiden name of founder James Eure’s wife.
The company has since grown to over 100 locations over the past 50 years.
Franchise partners Bill Boone and George Kash have been friends and made each other laugh for years. With ownership covering 20% of Mr. Gatti’s total units, the two are residents of Austin and Round Rock.
“I’ve known George since he was, I don’t know, probably in his twenties,” Boone said. “I knew his mother and father. They were our clients.”
Boone’s initial career wasn’t all about pizza — he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in accounting and law. After practicing law for about five years, he entered the Air Force.
“I ended up joining my dad and his wholesale food distribution company was there for 10 years,” Boone said. “We sold it to Kraft in 1987 and at that time I got involved with Gary.”
Boone, Gatti’s ATX CEO, wrote Mr. Gatti’s original franchise agreement and got to know the real Mr. Gatti through clients.
“I felt like it was a cool concept in the 70s,” Boone said.
However, for Kash, franchise owner of Mr. Gatti’s Round Rock locations, provolone cheese and Gatti’s famous pizza sauce ran through his veins from an early age.
“It started with my mom … she was Mr. Gatti’s first franchisee in 1972 in Cedar Park, Texas, and it’s kind of been in our family ever since,” Kash said.
For the successful duo, business has slowed during the pandemic. They had to get creative to stay afloat.
“When COVID-19 hit, everything was shut down and Austin’s pickup and delivery stores declared bankruptcy. But with our love for the Gatti brand, we decided we wanted it to stay in Austin, so we bought it out of bankruptcy,” Boon said.
The couple saw how devastating the pandemic was for everyone, and they didn’t know what the outcome would be.
“We decided that we would at least try to give some people a discount so they could still bring food to their table and have pizza delivered. We felt that was the way to go, and it turned out to be a huge success for us,” Kash said.
During the pandemic, the pizza chain used 50% offers to help customers.
“We wanted to reintroduce everything we had done all those years and tried to recreate a culture in Austin that has made the Gatti brand the best known in the city,” Boone said.
And their deal worked. The Austin-based pizza franchise came out on top.
Now they are expanding after their success, with more than a dozen locations in Austin, expanding their presence in central Texas to Hutto and Dripping Springs.
Through the ups and downs of owning and operating, Boone and Kash agree one thing is certain.
“It’s about the pizza. We think it’s the best pizza in town, honestly. That’s our slogan and we stand behind it,” Boone said.
But it’s also important to find a good partner to get a piece of the action.
“It’s in my blood, you know. Once Mr. Gatti is in your blood, it’s in your blood. So I’m very lucky and happy to be associated with that,” Kash said.
Mr. Gatti’s Pizza recently opened a new location in Hutto and is breaking ground soon in Dripping Springs, with an expected opening date in early 2023. New locations in New Braunfels and Temple are expected to open by 2023.
Boone says he’s 75 and has a daughter in the business, but he’s not ready to retire, with all the fun going on, just yet.
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