Ford Fountain Keeps It Simple in Leakesville

Robert “Ford” Fountain isn’t exactly the mayor of Leakesville, Mississippi, but he may be its most popular resident. As the co-owner of Leakesville’s new Pizza Inn restaurant, along with wife Martha and their four grown children, he’s created a social focal point for his hometown and its 1,400 residents, as well as their almost 13,000 neighbors in surrounding Greene County.

Ford’s not new to the experience, though. He operated the county’s last Pizza Inn for 19 years before some health problems forced him to close it. Now, with his children able to help out and Martha ready to try something new in her career, he decided it was time to bring the famous Pizza Inn buffet back to town.

“It really is the perfect fit for a small town,” Ford says. “People want to go out to lunch or dinner, have a meal with their family. And you can’t beat the efficiency.”

The folks in Leakesville seem to agree. On opening day, the line for the restaurant was a block long half an hour before opening. “We were so slammed, we never could have imagined the crowds.”

Business has gotten more predictable in the four months since then. Ford estimates about 60 percent of his business now is carryout, but the all-day buffet remains the main attraction.

At the new location, Martha runs the show in the restaurant day-to-day, while Ford takes care of the business. “I do the paperwork and the ordering and so forth,” he says. “And I’m a phone call away if there are any questions.”

Not surprisingly, there were plenty of questions and phone calls the first few weeks, though he says that quickly slowed down as Martha and the operations team settled in. The Pizza Inn system shortens that learning curve, along with some flexibility in the layout that customized the kitchen and dining areas to the building.

“Our kitchen is more efficient than it ever was before,” Ford explains. “You got two ovens, turn 90 degrees and you cut and prep, turn 90 degrees and plate or box. Takes less space and there’s no wasted movement.”

That’s just part of his family’s experience working with Rave Restaurant Group to bring Pizza Inn back to Leakesville. He specifically notes their responsiveness and commitment to his operation before and after the opening.

“We had corporate folks right on site,” he says. “Anything we needed, they were on top of it.”

Ford is particularly impressed with Pizza Inn’s focus on communities like his and on owner-operators. His advice for other would-be Pizza Inn entrepreneurs: Keep it simple.

“Don’t overspend on a business,” he says slowly to emphasize his words.

“And run it yourself with your family. Nobody’s ever gonna run it like you.”