Happy Joe’s Named on QSR’s Top 50 Contenders of 2022

Happy Joe’s Pizza has a lot to celebrate in 2022. On the heels of the beloved pizza chain’s 50th anniversary, Happy Joe’s has been added to QSR Magazine’s “Top 50 Contenders for 2022”. For the Iowa-based pizza company, it’s a sign of a bright future. As one of the leading family-friendly chains in the Quad Cities area of Iowa and Illinois, it’s a welcome, but not surprising, honor to make the cut. 

The leading source of information for quick-service, fast-casual, and limited-service restaurants, the QSR Magazine’s “Top Contenders” list has been providing valuable insight into the industry for more than a quarter of a century. After two years of an industry-altering pandemic, restaurants have faced continual challenges, with many being forced to adapt, react, and innovate on the fly. Still, fast casual restaurants like Happy Joe’s tended to fare much better than competitors. With new ideas continuing to shape the QSR space, we could be quickly entering a golden age of quick-service fast casual restaurants as we head into 2023. This also comes on the heels of a new boom in franchising, with brands like Happy Joe’s set to enjoy a variety of new opportunities. 

A legacy chain serving the Midwest for 50 years, Happy Joe’s was recognized by its inclusion in Pizza Marketplace Magazine’s “Pizza Hall of Fame”, as well as on the QSR Contenders for 2022 as a rising star ready for new growth. The fan-favorite pizza joint came in at number No. 39 on the list, alongside 49 of the most successful and innovative quick-service and fast casual restaurants in the U.S. Happy Joe’s is poised for future success in this segment of the restaurant industry.

Happy Joe’s President and CEO, Tom Sacco, said making the list was another great step forward for the brand. “We’re honored to be named a QSR Top 50 contender, and it’s motivation to keep working toward being the top pizza brand in the country,” he explained. “We’ve heavily invested in our digital efforts to better deliver our one-of-kind, gourmet menu to guests across the country, and we’re glad to see it paying off with this type of recognition. Fifty years of blood, sweat, and tears have gotten our brand to this point, and we aren’t stopping any time soon as we continue to ramp up our expansion efforts in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and more. We’re on a mission to be the preeminent experiential pizza brand that creates emotional connections with families as we build our ‘Happy Places’ across our beloved country.”

Founded in 1972 by “Happy Joe” Whitty in Bettendorf, Iowa, Happy Joe’s was built on Whitty’s dream to create a restaurant with two focuses: serving America’s two favorite foods, pizza and ice cream, and doing it in a family-friendly, celebratory environment. Since then, the company has grown into an iconic destination for pizza lovers and families. Currently, the service-oriented pizza chain operates three company restaurants, along with 38 franchise locations in the American Midwest, and has one open and four more under-construction franchise locations in Egypt. The brand plans to expand across the southern United States and plans to open over 25 additional international locations across Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai.

The placement on the QSR Contenders list comes after Happy Joe’s was named a FastCasual Top 200 concept, a Franchise Times Top 400 business, and a Nation’s Restaurant News Top 500 restaurant.

For a business built on great food and connection with community, all the recognition is well earned. With the chain celebrating its 50th anniversary, Sacco notes, “Ninety percent of all restaurants operating in the USA cannot say they have achieved this milestone.” For many quick-service restaurants around the globe, evolving technology, recessions, worker shortages, and changing consumer preferences can make it incredibly difficult to weather the ups and downs of the market. But where other restaurants struggle, Happy Joe’s succeeds. 

And this isn’t the only milestone for the brand in 2022. As CEO Tom Sacco notes, opening new brick-and-mortar restaurants in Egypt, with many more on the way, was a huge accomplishment. Along with this expansion to the Middle East, the company has kept busy investing in new building designs and new branding, and it unveiled a new website earlier this year. It’s also launched a loyalty app that offers customers the option to order online. Sacco says all of this year’s initiatives addressed gaps in the company’s service model. 

So, what’s the magic behind the Happy Joe’s Pizza and Ice Cream formula? Sacco says it all comes down to prioritizing excellence in everything. The brand offers “consistently excellent food, great value for the dollar, creating magical memories for children” and is “heavily involved” in the local communities each franchise serves. The most successful of these franchises “operate with a servant’s heart, a warrior spirit, and are passionate about their business.” According to Sacco and the Happy Joe’s team, it’s a recipe that’s created success for five decades of business.