Our largest multi-unit franchisee opens his 17th and 18th Mountain Mike’s locations one day apart
Robby Basati doesn’t go small when it comes to pizza. The Area Developer and largest franchisee for Mountain Mike’s Pizza just went extra-large when he opened his 17th and 18th locations just a day apart in Temecula and Jurupa Valley, both located in the Inland Empire area of Southern California.
He owns and operates Mountain Mike’s Pizza franchises in Hollister, Prunedale, Seaside, Salinas, Clovis, Fresno, Chino, Morgan Hill, Aptos, Moreno Valley, Perris, Menifee, Temecula, Redlands, Highland, Sanger and Jurupa Valley.Before he bought his first Mountain Mike’s, like many of our franchisees, he was a customer and a college kid longing for the entrepreneurial life. His friend and business partner, Happy Cheema, owned a Mountain Mike’s with his family. Although the family has long since gotten out of the business, Cheema and Basati remain business partners to this day.
“Because of him is why I’m in this business today,” Basati says. “It was his love of the pizza business and my itching to do something on my own (that got me) into Mountain Mike’s. Both of us teamed up together and purchased our first store in Hollister in 2007.”
Any college kid loves pizza, but Basati’s passion was specifically for Mountain Mike’s. “There is a certain appeal when you are a 20-year-old single college kid. There’s this appeal about owning a pizza place with beer on tap. And Mountain Mike’s is just a great product. It just is. It is a great product and something I’d like to associate my name with.”
For someone who knew at the age of 20 that he wanted to own his own business, why Mountain Mike’s Pizza franchise? Why not just strike out on his own? Basati says it just made sense for him. Yes, there are fees, but they’re negligible compared to all the benefits of owning a franchise with an established brand like Mountain Mike’s.
“How much is that royalty? It’s almost nothing, but when you’re buying specific products that have been pre-negotiated for you — HQ handles the supply chain for you. You don’t have to worry about your pepperoni, your dough not showing up or things like that. They’re working on a supply chain, they’re doing all that.”
“You get the best prices in the industry on your purchases. You’d be surprised at how cheap it is to own a franchise, and the reason I love Mountain Mike’s is if you go into each and every store in the system… every store is just a little bit different. Why? Because the elements in that store pertain to or connect to the community that store is located in.”
Essentially, although Mountain Mike’s has provided the consistency of product that has engendered customer loyalty for 40 years, each store feels a little like an independent thanks to those community connections. But operators have the advantage of experienced franchise operators on their team.
“It just kind of blows my mind how far we’ve come and the rock stars we have over there,” Basati says. “Sometimes it’s surreal. That credit goes to the ownership.”
He also credits the Mountain Mike’s team for steering the brand through the pandemic — another compelling argument for franchising. We experienced our highest year-over-year sales in 2020, despite the challenges.
“We’re doing great things here, especially given the COVID crisis. If someone says to me, why would I want to own a Mountain Mike’s, why not go do it on my own? I would grab them and sit them down at a computer and show them the numbers for my stores during this crisis…my heart goes out to all the business that didn’t make it, the people that are hurting and suffering.”
Mountain Mike’s, like many pizza chains, was already set up and experienced in delivery and pickup. We already had established digital platforms. Our brand was already known and beloved, too, which made it an easy choice to turn to when customers were seeking out familiar and trusted comfort food. Basati attributes a lot of the sales uptick to those factors, and he remains grateful.
“For me, it’s very personal,” he says. “I’m not taking a victory lap here that we’re doing well in this (pandemic) climate. This is my bread and butter. I live the life I live because of this brand, and my kids have the opportunities that they have because of this brand.”
“Who knows what the future holds, but I mean this is something major and I sleep better at night knowing that we’ll be okay, it seems like. And I think we can tackle the next big thing, whatever it may be.”