Donatos Pizza used to recruit partners through the typical franchising method of bringing potential operators to its Columbus, Ohio, headquarters for a “discovery day” and discussing the 175-unit chain’s business model. Four years ago, though, as Donatos reignited its franchise push, company executives recognized that they and franchisee candidates were not getting to know one another well enough prior to the office visit. “So we flipped the process on its end,” ...

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