Madison Mainstay, The Roman Candle, Using the "F Word" to Grow Into New Markets
Madison Mainstay, The Roman Candle, Using the "F Word" to Grow Into New Markets

Brewer Stouffer, the founder of The Roman Candle, promises to grow craft pizza brand with integrity through franchising

When Brewer Stouffer launched The Roman Candle in 2005, he had one vision: to create a place where Madison, Wisconsin residents could come to eat, drink and enjoy themselves. But beyond a good time, The Roman Candle stood for a lot more—farm-fresh ingredients, quality sourcing and real Wisconsin cheese, all stitched together with a thoughtful, handmade approach.

As soon as its doors opened, The Roman Candle was buzzing with guests hungry for something more than just homogenous, cookie-cutter pizza chains. Now, more than ten years later, the brand has five locations throughout Wisconsin, and each one is as local and community-friendly as the original that started it all.

But even as The Roman Candle expands, the heart of the brand remains unchanged. Each restaurant upholds the brand’s commitment to the community by sourcing from local farmers, brewers, cheese makers, and industry purveyors. As such, the menu at each location reflects the tastes of the neighborhood.

With the success of each iteration of his beloved brand, Stouffer increasingly heard requests from visitors and loyalists that they would like to open their own Roman Candle in their neighborhoods and hometowns , The seed was planted for Stouffer that expanding in Wisconsin and beyond could actually work.

“It didn’t take long for me to realize that we had built something truly special here, and over the past few years, the question that’s been running through my mind is: How do we share The Roman Candle with people in other neighborhoods?” said Stouffer. “After much consideration, we realized that having a local owner on the ground to build the business and create partnerships with local organizations and schools is the best way to grow outside of Madison.”

Deciding to franchise—or saying the “F-word,” as Stouffer calls it—didn’t come easily at first. To Stouffer, providing a one-of-a-kind craft experience to cities across the U.S. is a natural next step—but it has to be done on his terms. He built the brand with an unwavering commitment to providing an option that didn’t just taste good, but did actual good in the local community. He stands firm that any franchise locations will stay that same course.

“I’m a passionate guy, and particularly so when it comes to The Roman Candle. I don’t plan on signing on franchisees looking to make a quick buck,” Stouffer said. “We’re in this to be profitable, but in the right way. We will be involved in every single step along the way and will provide franchisees with a streamlined path and a proven business model. The beauty of franchising is that it allows passionate operators to become business owners and to inject our brand with that quintessential local flavor that defines The Roman Candle.”

It’s nearly impossible to speak to Stouffer without catching his enthusiasm—it’s infections. And that’s exactly what he’s looking for in franchisees—men and women who are passionate, even obsessive about the food they eat, the food they serve and the communities they live in.

Franchising was once uncharted territory for The Roman Candle, but just as with every other aspect of the business, Stouffer and his team are dedicated to doing it right. That means taking their time to grow, and focusing on franchisees that fit the culture they’ve worked so hard to create. The initial investment to open a The Roman Candle location is between $478,000 and $852,000. The Roman Candle hopes to have upwards of five new franchise locations sold by the end of 2016.

“The reason I was initially apprehensive about franchising is the exact same reason it will work,” Stouffer said. “People rebel against a corporate chain store ‘soullessness,’ but since The Roman Candle is so focused on embracing local, we feel confident that new markets will embrace us. Franchising wasn’t something I decided to do overnight. I did some serious soul-searching over the past few years, and based on the incredible reception we have received in Wisconsin, I know that this will work. I refuse to let this brand that I have worked so hard to build to be diluted as we expand into new markets.”

For more information about franchising with The Roman Candle, please click here.