Doing right by his community

Marco’s franchisee gives away thousands of pizzas to frontline workers and others in his community.

Masked hospital workers stand on either side of an SUV trunk opened to reveal dozens of stacked Marco’s Pizza boxes. The image is superimposed diagonally on a field of red with the words “Greensboro, North Carolina” at the top and a triangular banner that reads “#SliceOfLove” at the bottom.

For some people, generosity is so ingrained that they can’t even pinpoint its source. Travis Cole, a multi-unit Marco’s franchisee in North Carolina, is like that. Like many of our franchise owners, he makes community give-back a part of his regular business dealings. But Cole’s story stands out because he’s gone above and beyond.

When the pandemic first struck, there were so many unsung heroes on the front lines, working tirelessly in high-risk situations to care for victims of the coronavirus. Cole was one of the heroes behind the heroes, stepping up to show appreciation and to care for those who were caring for everyone else.


  • He and his teams at his three Marco’s stores donated around 4,800 pizzas to hospital workers in the towns of Greensboro, Salisbury & Reidsville, NC, in the early months of the pandemic.
  • Cole arranged for a struggling part-time Marco’s employee of only a few months to get a new car. Orlando Quinton Johnson II, a widowed dad of two, holding down a full-time day job in addition to his Marco’s delivery gig, had demonstrated his work ethic already, earning Employee of the Month a couple of months in a row. Since he was gifted the car, Cole says, he has worked even harder.
  • When a neighboring sports bar business owner was hit hard by COVID restrictions, Cole nominated him to receive a grant from The Barstool Fund, a nonprofit national relief fund for small businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. 
  • Every week, Cole’s three Marco’s franchises give away up to 200 pizzas to deserving people in their communities leading up to his next Greensboro, NC, new store opening.

“It’s really something to be in a position to be able to help other people,” says Cole, who anticipates opening his second Greensboro, NC, location — his fourth overall — in the next few months.

Generosity amid a crisis

Like so many, Cole and his businesses were affected by the pandemic. Personally, he feels very lucky that he and his immediate circle have escaped coronavirus. But its effect on others did not go unnoticed. The former Subway franchisee, who has been with Marco’s Pizza since 2018, knew he had to do something.

“We decided we were going to feed all five hospitals in our area, so that was maybe 3,200 pizzas that we donated to those hospitals to feed the workers and the staff. And then since then, we’ve been donating to different charities and non-profits,” he says. 

And beginning in January, Cole and his teams dedicated themselves to donating 200 pizzas a week to some of their communities’ unsung heroes and people in need. He has donated thousands of pizza throughout the Triad area.

Cole tries to schedule the donations at a time when he, his area manager and his store manager can pitch in to make the pizzas. The pies are individually sized so people don’t have to share their food in a time of social distancing. “That little bit of money spent in food costs goes a long way when you’re making the pizzas and making someone’s day better,” he says.

While he doesn’t point to a specific inspiration for his generosity, Cole does remember some words from Co-CEO & President Tony Libardi that really struck him in the early days of the coronavirus crisis: “He said, ‘We’re not in the pizza business, we’re in the people business.’” 

Why giving back matters

Beginning in January, Cole started giving away up to 200 pizzas a week. To better manage the requests, he created a platform to allow people to nominate others to receive the Marco’s personal pizzas. He recognizes that the give-aways have meant extra work for his employees, but he also knows that they want to be part of the giving back, too.

“It’s a little bit more work for them but I think they understand what we’re doing and just as busy as we’ve gotten here in the last year or two,” Cole says. “They now believe the mindset that if we take care of those around us, they’re going to take care of us as well, which ultimately all leads to good things.”

The restaurant industry has been hit especially hard by the pandemic, Cole says, while Marco’s has been thriving. “We’ve been really fortunate because we were already geared towards takeout and delivery, while a lot of restaurants were scrambling, trying to get DoorDash and those sorts of things set up so they could somewhat survive through this,” he says. “But I’ve definitely seen a lot of the bigger businesses around here step up and donate to try to help local businesses.”

As for Cole, he’ll keep donating as long as there’s a need. While the ongoing charitable efforts may change, he doesn’t think it will go away entirely. 

“I think it is something that is here to stay with us because the support we’ve seen from the community since we’ve been doing this has been incredible.

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