Donatos Pizza: a Very Profitable Franchise at Only $571K

Another famous Pizza chain, Donatos Pizza is also one of the most profitable pizza franchise. Indeed, franchisees would need to invest $571,000 on average to open a new Donatos Pizza location, yet the restaurant makes on average $1.2 million in turnover per year..!

Beyond turnover, Donatos Pizza are very profitable: we found the payback period for this franchise is only 3.2 years which is excellent.

So if you’re considering opening a new Donatos Pizza restaurant, make sure to understand the financials: how much money it really costs, and how much profits you can realistically make with such a franchise. Let’s dive in!

Key stats

Franchise fee$30,000
Royalty fee4.0%
Marketing fee5.0%
Investment (mid-point)$571,000
Average sales$1,173,000
Sales to investment ratio2.1x
Payback period*[franchise_value_investment_payback]
Minimum net worth$1,000,000
Minimum liquid capital$200,000
* using 15% net profit margin

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What is Donatos Pizza?

Donatos Pizza is an American pizza delivery restaurant chain headquartered in Gahanna, Ohio.

The chain was founded in 1963 in Columbus, Ohio, by Jim Grote. It serves a variety of oven-baked subs, salads, chicken wings, sides, and desserts.

Donatos Pizza began franchising in 1991 and now has over 150 stores in the US.

Donatos Pizza franchises: pros and cons


  • Quality training: The brand has a comprehensive online, classroom, and hands-on-the-job training program to equip its franchisees with knowledge and resources to establish, build, and grow their businesses. It trains its franchisees on how to make the products, manage staff, handle customers, and run restaurant operations.
  • Flexible franchise formats: The brand offers its franchisees different franchise formats to choose from. Franchisees have the flexibility to operate a restaurant that best suits the available real estate opportunities and attracts a lot of traffic.
  • Exclusive territory protection: The brand grants its franchisees a protected area in which to operate their business. It does not license any other franchise or operate a competitive channel or brand in the protected area.
  • Marketing support: Donatos Pizza has an experienced marketing and advertising team. Franchisees can use targeted promotional campaigns, local store advertising, national media, social media, loyalty program apps, and influencer marketing resources and tools to reach a huge market area.
  • Real estate and construction. The franchisor assists its franchisees with site selection, designs, and restaurant construction to establish their restaurant at a lower cost. Also, it provides franchisees with specification standards, access to approved vendors, and lease negotiations.


  • No absentee ownership: The Donatos Pizza franchise does not offer a passive business opportunity. It requires its franchisees to take full responsibility for the day-to-day running of their restaurants.
  • No franchise financing: The brand does not directly or indirectly finance its franchisees for startup and development costs. Also, it does not guarantee any lease, note, or grant on behalf of its franchisees.
  • Not a part-time business: A Donatos pizza franchise cannot be run from home or a mobile unit. Franchisees must operate from a fixed office facility in or near their restaurants.
  • Competition from the various pizza restaurant franchises like Blaze Pizza, Mountain Mike’s, Hungry Howie’s, Marco’s Pizza, Pizza Ranch and Rosati’s Pizza to name a few, in addition to the giants Pizza Hut and Domino’s)

How much do you need to invest?

On average, you may need to invest around $571,124 to open a Donatos Pizza restaurant.

As you may already have guessed, the investment amount mentioned above is an estimated average. Thus the average amount varies depending on various factors like location, restaurant size, etc. According to the latest FDD, the investment amount can be as low as $391,500 and as high as $750,747.

What are you paying for? Well, this initial investment pays for startup costs mostly. In addition to the franchise fee of $30,000, your investment covers:

  • Formation Costs: security deposit under the lease, leasehold improvements, construction, furniture, fixtures, equipment, computer system, trio software license fee, liquor license, training expenses, etc.
  • Initial Marketing: grand opening marketing program
  • Operating Costs: opening inventory and supplies, 3 months’ lease rent and real estate expenses, and an additional fund for 3 months as working capital.
Type of ocstLowHigh
Initial Franchise Fee$30,000$30,000
Formation Costs$290,500$605,747
Initial Marketing$25,000$30,000
Operating Costs$46,000$85,000
Source: FDD 2022

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What is the turnover of a Donatos Pizza franchise?

On average, a Donatos Pizza franchise makes $1,173,373 in sales per year.

The sales number is the annual median sales of 55 franchised restaurants operating in 2021.

What’s more is that Donatos Pizza franchises have had a steady growth over the years: revenue growth reached +10% year-to-year from 2018 to 2021. Therefore, by opening a new Donatos Pizza restaurant you can rely on a solid brand name with a strong track record of growth.

How profitable is a Donatos Pizza franchise?

On average a Donatos Pizza franchise makes $350,467 in profits per year. This represents an adjusted EBITDA margin of 30% of sales.

The 30% adjusted EBITDA margin is on the higher end compared to similar franchises as per our intelligence (~25-27% industry average). 

Although the prime cost is in line with the industry average (56.7% sales vs. ~54-56% industry average) the adjusted EBITDA margin is higher mostly because of lower rent costs (4.4% vs. 8%).

Profit-and-lossAmount ($)As % of sales
Royalty + marketing fees$(105,604)9.0%
Adjusted EBITDA$350,467~30%

Even though this adjusted EBITDA does not represent the net profit you would earn from this business. Meaning you can’t keep 30% of the total revenue in your pocket.

Rather, you may need to deduct taxes, debt interest expenses, and other costs. So, you would earn less than 30% net profit as a Donatos Pizza franchise owner. So is this really a good investment?

Is a Donatos Pizza franchise a good investment?

So should you invest in a Donatos Pizza franchise? The numbers seem to say so. Indeed, we found the payback period for a Donatos Pizza is 3.2 years which is excellent.

The payback period is the number of years it takes for an investment (like investing in a franchise) to repay itself with the profits.

In other words, you would need to wait only 3 years for the profits of the business to repay the initial investment of $571,124.

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How does it compare vs. other franchises?

FranchiseInvestment ($)Sales ($)Payback (years)Min. net worth ($)Min. liquid capital ($)
Dunkin' Donuts,0001,056,5211.44.9500,000250,000
Krispy Kreme,0003,400,0004.11.62,000,000300,000
Little Caesars,022,850798,1130.88.5350,000150,000
Steak 'n Shake, Milshakes815,6261,346,3321.74.01,500,000500,000
Crumbl Cookies,2241,582,0903.12.1300,000150,000
Taco Bell,4131,650,0003.61.91,500,000750,000
Smoothie King,108573,2690.88.0300,000100,000
Jersey Mike's,3231,220,5862.14.7300,000100,000
Nothing Bundt Cakes,6501,307,2802.42.7600,000150,000
Jimmy John's,650874,8451.73.9300,00080,000
Texas Roadhouse,209,5002,955,5340.79.5n.a.200,000
Kung Fu Tea tea250,125353,2371.44.7n.a.25,000
Burger King,242,9501,215,9701.06.81,500,000500,000
Sonic Drive-In,467,0831,617,0001.16.01,000,000500,000
Panera Bread,290,5002,599,4321.15.97,500,0003,000,000
Pizza Hut,575906,9111.06.9700,000350,000
Dairy Queen Cream1,404,2201,143,1800.88.2750,000400,000
Jack in the Box,195,8001,755,5030.812.51,000,000250,000
Papa John’s,6951,101,1273.12.1750,000250,000
Five Guys,2251,203,3662.42.8500,000250,000
Carl’s Jr.,860,3351,419,5160.88.71,000,000500,000
Baskin-Robbins Cream465,100316,8150.79.8250,000125,000
Applebee’s American5,137,9662,356,9650.514.51,000,000500,000
Denny's American3,785,4591,639,5490.415.41,000,000500,000
Papa Murphy's,174580,4411.35.0275,000125,000
Auntie Anne's,692343,1351.55.6300,000100,000
Firehouse Subs,186888,3561.44.6350,000100,000
Tropical Smoothie Cafe,500961,9692.23.0350,000125,000
Marco’s Pizza,625895,5232.03.3400,000100,000
Cold Stone Creamery Cream310,956417,5881.35.0250,000100,000
Church’s Chicken,195,1471,395,0881.25.71,000,000300,000
Moe’s Southwest Grill,3701,013,3611.35.21,000,000100,000
Tim Hortons,242,7501,188,2401.07.0500,000100,000
Checkers & Rally's,8471,039,7731.25.4750,000250,000
Charleys Philly Steaks,806786,2331.54.3500,000100,000
Buffalo Wild Wings,546,9002,534,1480.79.31,500,000750,000
Rita's Ice Cream215,839248,3401.25.8300,000100,000
A&W Restaurants,750851,2121.16.2350,000150,000
Hungry Howie’s Pizza,682806,8991.93.5750,000200,000
McAlister’s Deli,424,9631,865,8611.35.11,000,000500,000
Round Table Pizza,2501,037,8161.35.0500,000200,000
Qdoba Mexican Eats,250972,9621.54.5
Taco John’s,119,0001,124,9801.06.61,000,000400,000
Scooter’s Coffee,143,250797,1010.79.6500,000200,000
Einstein Bros. Bagels,075885,0111.25.71,000,000536,500
Great American Cookies,275452,7711.25.7250,000100,000
Wienerschnitzel dogs873,300880,9801.06.6600,000250,000
Blaze Pizza,4501,096,4321.37.9500,000300,000
Wetzel's Pretzels,571748,8572.03.4300,00050,000
Pizza Ranch,268,3001,174,0880.418.61,000,000297,000
Del Taco,406,8501,345,3411.07.02,000,000500,000
Schlotzsky’s, Salads1,102,9331,053,3330.322.21,000,000300,000
Captain D’s,7781,067,8160.419.01,000,000350,000
Biggby Coffee,575648,3520.320.0300,000100,000
Which Wich,375281,8860.322.2500,000150,000
Marble Slab Creamery Cream407,360251,0520.416.7250,000100,000
Mountain Mike's Pizza,900865,7130.320.0300,000100,000
Huddle House,743712,4280.513.3600,000300,000
L&L Hawaiian Barbecue,350612,9210.333.3500,000150,000
Chicken Salad Chick, Salads651,0001,202,0200.320.0750,000250,000
Golden Chick,975917,6092.52.62,000,000425,000
Waba Grill,000466,5361.06.51,000,000250,000
Bruster’s Ice Cream Cream663,925466,6960.79.5375,000150,000

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