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VANCOUVER, WA-Known for its no frills and low prices, Papa Murphy’s aggressive expansion plans and tasty pies prompted trade magazine “Pizza Today” to select the take-and-bake pizza franchise headquartered here as its inaugural chain of the year award winner.

“We chose Papa Murphy’s as Pizza Chain of the Year because of its innovation, steady growth and profitability,” said Steve Coomes, Pizza Today’s editor-in-chief. The magazine officially will present an award to the company on Thursday at the Chicago Pizza Expo.

As of last December, Papa Murphy’s had 615 outlets in 21 states, including 117 stores in Washington and 86 stores in Oregon. Debbie Britten, a Papa Murphy’s spokeswoman, said the company plans to open 80 more stores in the United States this year.

Sales topped $300 million last year, up 20 percent over 1999. Papa Murphy’s has several business advantages that help the company attract and retain customers. Outlets can be housed in storefronts as small as 1,200 sf because no ovens are necessary and no one needs to sit at tables so they don’t provide any. Uncooked pies also are considered groceries, so Papa Murphy’s can accept food stamps.

“In a convenience culture, it was interesting for me to research a successful company that actually asks its patrons to cook their dinner,” Coomes said. “Perhaps the company has realized that’s what consumers now want: control over convenience.”

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