In 11 years, this California couple has opened three stores and had three kids. Here’s how they manage it all.
With Mountain Mike’s Pizza locations in Brentwood and Discovery Bay, CA, Melissa Seita and her husband, Luis, stay busy. Maybe not as busy as when they opened their first store in 2009, which happened to coincide with the birth of their first child. Today, the parents of three divvy up the responsibilities as evenly as possible while Melissa continues to work outside the business. They share their story in this Mountain Mike’s franchise review.
Answers have been edited for clarity.
How did you learn about Mountain Mike’s?
Luis Seita: When I was 18 years old, I managed a store for one of my cousins, many moons ago, and then 10 years later, it all came around where I ended up getting a store in Brentwood. That’s how I ended up getting into Mountain Mike’s Pizza; been at it for about 11 years now.
What were you doing before you became a franchisee?
Melissa Seita: I work for a corporate grocery chain. I have for 15 years. And my husband had recently been unemployed from the car industry, from the recession that we had back in 2009, with the idea that he was going to open up a business, and I was pregnant, so yeah. So we did scarily open up our first restaurant in 2009 with an infant baby. Yeah, and 10 years later we have three kids, three restaurants, and I still am working for the corporate grocery chain.
Luis Seita: For me, my previous career before Mountain Mike’s Pizza really helped translate into Mountain Mike’s ownership. Just understanding people and knowing that it’s not just, “Here’s your pizza, have a good day.” There’s a lot more that goes into selling pizza and doing it so you continuously grow your customer base. Typically how you do that is, you make more customers than you lose. And quality’s No. 1, but service, price point, community, understanding that you care as a franchisee — I believe all those things make it work.
I love that you guys run your three restaurants together. Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship and how that works out?
Melissa Seita: Luis does operations primarily and I do business administration in the office. So anything at the store with customers, employees, pizza, community — that’s him. And then anything behind the scenes — all the office work, paperwork, laws, everything — that’s me. We work together, but we talk about Mountain Mike’s in bed, during the day when I check up on him and call throughout the day, so it’s just kind of ingrained in our marriage.
Do you think owning Mountain Mike’s franchises has changed your life for the better? How has it affected your family?
Melissa Seita: It’s helped our family a lot. There are many benefits to having a Mountain Mike’s in our family and our children even love it. We have an arcade area, and I joke with my friends that our little son will go into the arcade and we’ll give them a roll of quarters and he walks around like he owns the joint… He’s the king of the arcade, but the kids love it. They’re very proud of it. They’re always telling their friends about Mountain Mike’s and stuff, so it’s very cool.
Luis Seita: This career choice has definitely benefited our family. I work together with my wife as one, and together we make it happen. It’s challenging, I’m not going to lie to you — between three stores, three kids, being involved in all three stores on a daily basis. I have my role, my wife has hers and then she has a full-time job. It’s definitely a “get up at 5 a.m. and grind all day long” type of business, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world because at the end of the day, it’s worth it.
What do you think it takes to run a Mountain Mike’s successfully?
Melissa Seita: It takes a lot of dedication and patience and hard work.
Luis Seita: I believe in order to succeed at the franchisee, you have to be a people person and understand both sides — all three sides. Understand the customer, understand yourself as an owner and understand your staff.
How do you find great employees and how do you retain them? Is Mountain Mike’s a brand that people want to work for?
Melissa Seita: A lot of our employees are entry-level. I think every teenager and young adult in the city of Brentwood knows my husband, Luis. We can’t go anywhere without, “Hey, Luis!”. They still come back and visit him after college. It just takes working with them side-by-side, showing them that you care. You’re not just absent all the time. You are there for times of need, you’re in there helping when times are busy, and yeah, just showing that you care.
What kind of support do you count on?
Melissa Seita: The support from the corporate franchise is great for the marketing platforms, the advertising, the digital campaign. This whole digital technology world is really difficult to navigate nowadays, and they have provided the resources for us to be able to be in the running for digital marketing. So it’s been very beneficial for us.
What would you say to someone about why Mountain Mike’s is better than opening your own pizza place?
Melissa Seita: Mountain Mike’s Pizza has a long-standing reputation, especially in the Northern California area, for having great pizza. I grew up going to a Mountain Mike’s Pizza in Arnold, California, which is a very rural town, and I have great memories there. The pizza’s good quality. It’s a family atmosphere. Kids want to go there. It’s not like another type of pizza chain where you just go in and go out. It’s an experience.