A pizza chain that delivers breakfast? Happy Joe's Pizza to unveil prototype in Rockford

BETTENDORF, Iowa—Happy Joe’s Pizza & Ice Cream, a family of quick-casual restaurants for more than 30 years, has chosen Rockford as the place to unveil its new prototype, Happy Joe’s Caféz.

Happy Joe’s Caféz will feature design elements such as family fun centers, party rooms and an extended menu that includes breakfast to complement its lunch and dinner offerings for sit-down, takeout, delivery, or pickup window.

The Midwest family-owned and operated 65-unit chain has locations in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and North Dakota. Chain sales totaled $43 million in 2004. The prototype building features a kids’ viewing window of the kitchen, fun centers, party corrals, enhanced dining rooms and outdoor patios. A specific location and opening date for the Rockford Happy Joe’s have not been released.

Not many pizza places offer ice cream. Before franchise founder “Happy Joe” Whitty opened his first restaurant, he managed a local pizzeria, and noticed that after people ate, they would venture to the local ice cream parlor for dessert. That observation led “Happy Joe” to start offering ice cream to his guests.

Additionally, Whitty sat on the board of several local community organizations and offered his restaurant as a meeting place. He often brought donuts and coffee to those meetings. One day, someone suggested the group meet at a restaurant that offered a breakfast menu. That inspired Whitty to create an early morning breakfast line, including the popular omelet pizza, freshly baked cinnamon and caramel pecan nut rolls, breakfast skillet dishes and gourmet coffees.

Happy Joe’s menu features its famous original Taco Pizza, and other unique pizzas such as the BLT and Canadian bacon and sauerkraut pizzas. The new Happy Joe’s Caféz menu has been expanded to include hot Panini sandwiches, freshly made salads, upgraded bottled beers and wines and their new Mix’ns ice cream concept for dessert. In June, Happy Joe’s added a Chiplote line of pizzas, hot Panini sandwiches, salads and pastas to its menu.

Happy Joe’s also has a passion for giving back to the community, particularly special-needs children. Ties to that cause go back to the chain’s roots.

Before opening his first Happy Joe’s in 1972, Whitty was nearly let go from another pizza chain for sponsoring a party for special-needs children. An entrepreneur at heart, Whitty said he “was inspired rather than discouraged” by the experience.

Whitty noted Happy Joe’s franchisees are asked to host an annual holiday party for children with special needs and, to date, the chain has hosted more than 140,000 special-needs children.

For more info, visit www.happyjoes.com.

From the July 20-26, 2005, issue

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