The men of Pizza World

Area family Elijah, Beth and Isaiah Ploucher enjoys dinner.

In 1991, Eric Wortham became the founder and president of Pizza World when he saw his first restaurant open. Since then, Pizza World has exploded and has become a trendsetter with its unique approach to franchises and employee relations.

The chain has built its own marketing model, taking less from franchisees and encouraging them to invest profits back into the business, helping both the local location as well as the Pizza World label by focusing on being the best restaurant it can be.

Eric’s son, Ryan Wortham, literally grew up watching his father build the family pizza empire. Ryan paid close attention to his father’s efforts and business decisions. As he grew up, he performed every duty and job at the restaurant, learning the business inside and out. At age 16, he began investing his savings in the market and got a broker to help him with his investments.  

“My father gave me good sound business advice and I had the best mentor,” he said.

His father remains CEO over the popular and successful franchise, which currently counts stores in Belleville and Godfrey, along with Missouri locations in Branson, Maplewood, Shrewsbury and St. Louis, among its top spots. Eric Wortham has worked hard to maintain a consistency in all locations, with Roma Foods Distributing providing the same quality ingredients to each restaurant.

At age 22, Ryan began working at ADM Grain Elevator in St. Louis. In just one year he worked his way up to the title of tower operator. While he enjoyed this experience, pizza sauce never left his blood. He decided it was time to go back across the river and buy the Granite City Pizza World location from his dad.  

By the next year, Ryan was owner of the Pizza World location at 1535 Johnson Road. Jumping right in, his workday begins at 6 a.m. and he can be seen at the store until well past closing time. The hard work has paid off, as sales have increased by 30 percent since he took ownership. He says his outlook continues to be great service and an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality.

“The restaurant has thrived because of its family-friendly atmosphere,” Ryan said. “Keeping our store a place where families can come and have a great time and see their neighbors also enjoying a good time and great food (is a priority).  People who came to Pizza World with their own families as children are now bringing their children to the restaurant for that same quality food and great atmosphere.”

Regular customers at the Granite City location agree.

“I came here as a child growing up in Granite and now my family enjoys the food and fun here,” Elizabeth Ploucher said.

The pizza buffet, beginning at 4 p.m., continues to be one of Pizza World’s most popular features, with businesses using it as an opportunity for meetings. Ryan also hosts the Business Networking International group every Wednesday for a breakfast meeting. Birthday and sports team parties also frequent Pizza World for their celebrations.    

“Appondanzza pizza is the house specialty and our biggest-selling pizza,” Ryan said. “It is 12 toppings — mozzarella, pepperoni, beef, Canadian bacon, bacon, Italian sausage, pork sausage, salami, mushrooms, black olives, tomatoes, green peppers and red onions.”

The menu also includes appetizers, fresh salads, subs, calzones and desserts, with plans for more item additions to debut soon.

The young entrepreneur has larger ambitions than just menu items, however.

“I want to open some more stores and eventually become CEO of Pizza World,” he said.

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