Donatos, celebrating its 50th year, is top 'fast-casual' pizza chainDonatos founder Jim Grote started making pizzas at a time when Americans were just beginning to fall in love with the pepperoni-and-cheese-topped pies.

“My first lesson was, make a good pizza and be nice to the customers, and they’ll line up out the door,” Grote said, recalling his first pizza job as a teenager: cutting pepperoni sticks at a pizzeria on the South Side of Columbus.

Grote’s thin-crust pizzas made with provolone (not mozzarella) and cut in squares instead of wedges, as well as his friendly, generous nature, have made Donatos a favorite in the Columbus area and beyond.

His Gahanna-based company, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is poised at the top of the fast-casual pizza industry, and it’s using market research and product innovation to make sure it stays on top.

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