Donatos, the renowned family-owned pizza company, marked a significant milestone in its history with a grand ceremony celebrating its 60th anniversary. The event, held at the first Donatos restaurant on Thurman Avenue, paid tribute to the company’s rich heritage while introducing exciting new innovations being developed for implementation in its restaurants.
Founded on May 31, 1963, by Jim Grote on the south side of Columbus, Donatos quickly gained recognition for its signature Edge to Edge® pizza. Crafted with a thin crust and generously topped with premium ingredients, this pizza became a favorite among pizza lovers. Over the past six decades, Donatos has expanded from its humble beginnings on Thurman Avenue to encompass more than 450 locations in 27 states. The company’s continuous growth is evident, with three franchise restaurants set to open this month and plans for further expansion on the horizon.
The commemorative ceremony held at the original Donatos store was hosted by CEO Tom Krouse and featured esteemed speakers, including Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted, State Senator Hearcel Craig, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin, and Ohio Restaurant Association President John Barker. To symbolize the passing of the torch and the promising future ahead, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted by four generations of the Grote family, led by Don DePerro, CEO of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. The event also honored the original crew members from the Thurman Avenue location, recognizing their invaluable contributions. As a tribute to Donatos’ impact on the community, the city of Columbus officially renamed Thurman Avenue to Donatos Way.
During his address, CEO Tom Krouse emphasized that Jim Grote’s vision extended far beyond opening a mere pizza shop. “Jim Grote didn’t just open a pizza shop 60 years ago,” he remarked. “He introduced a new way of doing business—one rooted in virtues, character, and ethics. What began as an 800 square foot location has now evolved into a $300 million company, serving pizza and embodying principles across 27 states.”
Jim Grote, who established Donatos at the age of 19, shared his determination to uphold his values when starting the business. Despite skepticism from others, he remained resolute in his belief that integrating morals and principles into his operations would lead to success. “Many people told me that if I brought my morals and principles with me, my business would fail,” he recounted. “I was determined to prove them wrong. I’ve always believed that treating people the way you want to be treated and making decisions with love will yield positive outcomes.”
The ceremony also offered attendees an exclusive glimpse into the recently remodeled original location, where the brand showcased new technology being developed in collaboration with Agápe Automation. Situated in the Edge Innovation Hub on the Donatos campus, these innovations included the SM^RT Saucer, SM^RT Ring, SM^RT Pepp, and SM^RT Cutter. These cutting-edge advancements aim to streamline the pizza-making process, ensuring consistent quality—a hallmark of Donatos’ reputation over the past six decades. By automating certain repetitive tasks, the technology allows associates to allocate their time more effectively in serving customers.
The integration of automation into Donatos’ operations serves a dual purpose: enhancing efficiency and maintaining the brand’s commitment to delivering exceptional quality. With a strong foundation built on doing the right thing, leading with love, and continually seeking innovation, Donatos is poised for a bright future.
For 60 years, Donatos has delighted customers with its Edge to Edge® pizza, an invention of founder Jim Grote. Today, with 455 locations spanning 27 states, Donatos, and its franchise partners operate 173 traditional restaurants, serving communities across Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Furthermore, Donatos’ products are proudly available in 282 non-traditional locations, including 273 locations with Red Robin and nine sports and entertainment venues.
As Donatos Pizza celebrates its remarkable 60-year journey, the company continues to embody its founding principles of integrity, love, and a commitment to improvement through innovation. With each slice of pizza, Donatos not only delivers exceptional taste but also preserves the legacy of a family-owned business that has left an indelible mark on the pizza industry.
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