CHEYENNE - The distance between Italy and Cheyenne just got a lot shorter for some people.
On Monday, VentCorp, the company that franchises Pizzeria Venti, announced its national in-store training center is now in the capital city.
"Part of our training is in Italy," said Joseph Gallina, VentCorp regional vice president.
All new Pizzeria Venti franchise operators are sent to Tuscany to learn the ways of Italian food.
When it comes to learning the restaurant business, they now will come to Cheyenne, Gallina said.
Here, Jerry and Sandy Inniss have run Pizzeria Venti on 17th Street for a little more than a year.
"We tested (the training program here) last month, and it worked out beautifully," Gallina said.
The reason for the change is Jerry Inniss' expertise in restaurant management. Before opening Pizzeria Venti, he had worked for most of his adult life in the restaurant business, training staff and managing operations.
Inniss will teach new franchise owners the practical aspects of running a restaurant - everything from dealing with health inspectors and suppliers to maintaining food safety and winning customers.
Inniss said when he was being trained in the Pizzeria Venti system in Illinois, he didn't agree with some of the things he was taught.
"The corporation has come around to see how I operate, and it was a natural fit," he said.
Added Gallina from the company's offices, now in Florida, "The Innisses run a beautiful operation. We want to make sure all of our franchisees understand the small-town feel and the ability to get close to the customers. A lot of franchises talk about that, but they are never taught that."
What's important, Gallina said, is the ability to understand what people want - and that's what the Innisses excel at.
Instead of treating customers as he would expect to be treated, Inniss said he treats them as they would expect to be treated. That requires the ability to read customers, he added.
"To know what they want or expect, that's the key. That's the goal," he said.
Cheyenne's biggest attribute may be the Innisses as far as VentCorp is concerned, but the location is another factor in its favor.
Cheyenne is easy to get to, Gallina said, and it's close to California, where the company expects to open new locations soon.
The company is flexible enough to schedule the trainings when they are needed. The target is about once every three months.
"Our biggest challenge in terms of the location is how people will respond," Gallina said. "I remember the first time Cheyenne was described to me - 53,000 people and a bunch of buffalo.
"It's different, but so what? We're doing something different."