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We keep pizza franchise costs down and pizza customers’ happiness up with help from a very special vendor.

Mountain Mike’s Pizza is known for two things: 1. Serving “Pizza the way it oughta be®” and 2. Being home to the legendary Crispy, Curly Pepperoni. Now, as a consumer, that might well be all you really need to know. As a franchise owner, you might want to know a few more things, like how we keep our pizza franchise costs in check while serving such a high-quality product. And how we source our products and maintain our vendor relationships.

That’s fair. We’ve been in business for over 40 years, so rest assured we’ve got it all ironed out. And when it comes to that delicious pepperoni, the kind that’s made in a way that makes it curl up at the edges when it’s baked and turns into the most glorious cupping pepperoni, we don’t cut any corners. We go straight to Bob Darling of Swiss American Sausage Co.

How they make the sausage

Not everyone wants to know “how the sausage is made,” but it is fascinating to learn about the difference between cupping pepperoni and pepperoni that lays flat. Darling says most of the secret is in the casing. The flat pepperoni uses a vegetable casing; our famous Crispy, Curly Pepperoni is made using a collagen casing, which stays on when the pepperoni is sliced and causes it to shrink in the oven into perfect, crispy little pepperoni cups.

A true test of quality

California-based Swiss American has been a popular West Coast supplier since 1930, providing pepperoni for many favorites including restaurateur and 13-time World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani.

Darling has the perfect example to validate the kind of quality ingredients we insist on: “Our employees eat at Mountain Mike’s,” says the Sr. Region Sale Manager for Burke Corporation | Swiss American Sausage Co., a division of Hormel. At the Swiss American plant in Lathrop, CA, employees often go to the nearby Mountain Mike’s for lunch. And when it’s time to test the product at the plant, there’s one place they turn to for the perfect pepperoni platform.

“There’s a Mountain Mike’s kind of around the corner from our plant and, when we bake samples off as we do every day, we’ve got an oven and we go to the Mountain Mike’s and get plain cheese pizzas and use them to bake off our products.”

To cup or not to cup?

While there may be a lot of debate right now over what kind of pepperoni people prefer, there’s no question that cupping pepperoni is trending. But “Mountain Mike’s was ahead of its time because they’ve been doing it for 30 years,” says Darling.

“They’ve stayed with it, and that’s a big part of why their customers love them, but it is trending across the country. Our sales of that style of pepperoni have increased annually for the last 12 years. Every year, we sell more of it.”

One last note

What does a prospective Mountain Mike’s buyer really need to know? As a vendor, Darling says he appreciates the ongoing relationship he has with both Mountain Mike’s the franchisor, and all the franchisees. “I know most of the franchisees personally, and we talk, and I see them at Pizza Expo. We’re in the stores. If somebody has a problem, somebody’s there to fix it,” he says.

“I think the other thing is, it’s a quality product. It’s not Little Caesars, it’s not Papa John’s, it’s not Pizza Hut, it’s not Domino’s,” he says. “It’s really good pizza. Customers appreciate it and see the value in the product.”

“Anybody can make a cheap pizza, but there’s only one Mountain Mike’s,” says Darling.