After Shrinking For the Last Two Years, This National Pizza Chain Is Planning a Major Expansion

Little Caesars is "little" in name only. Following a two-year run of store closures, the pizza chain plans to expand its business in the coming years by opening up to 227 new restaurants—a growth of about 5%.

Company vice president Craig Sherwood confirmed the plans in a recent interview with QSR Magazine, remarking that the time is "really, really ripe" for Little Caesars to begin opening new locations.

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The 4,200-unit chain is looking to expand into untapped markets across the U.S., shoring up its presence in cities including St. Louis, Denver, and Charlotte, and expanding its reach in regions like New England and the Pacific Northwest.

The plans come following two years of net new unit losses—a period during which the company closed more restaurants than it opened. Between 2018 and 2020, Little Caesars shrunk by 125 stores. Industry competitors showed a similar downward trend—Papa John's shrunk by 17 units in the first quarter of 2020, and Pizza Hut lost a whopping 745 restaurants.

However, with pizza delivery gaining major steam during the pandemic—Little Caesars being among the brands that saw an increase in those orders—the chain now finds itself in the position to expand.

New units will be doled out to a mixture of old and new franchisees. As part of its growth plan, Little Caesars is partnering with multiple quick-service restaurant groups, allowing it to expand more quickly than it had previously been able to.

In its pursuit of nationwide growth, the company will be competing with Domino's and Papa John's, both of which have signaled plans to greatly expand their operations in the coming years.

Little Caesars feels good about its odds, though. "The brand is resonating well, the pizza industry is obviously doing quite well, so we've taken advantage of that," Sherwood told QSR. "We're feeling pretty good going into '22."

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