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Top Women in Restaurant Technology: From Franchisee to CEO

Mary Jane Riva was presented HT’s Top Women in Restaurant Technology Lifetime Achievement Award at MURTEC 2024.
Mary Jane Riva accepting Lifetime Achievement Award at MURTEC
Mary Jane Riva, CEO of Pizza Factory, accepting the Top Women in Restaurant Technology - Lifetime Achievement Award at MURTEC 2024 in Las Vegas.
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Mary Jane Riva, CEO of Pizza Factory, received HT’s Top Women in Restaurant Technology Lifetime Achievement Award at MURTEC 2024 in Las Vegas. 

Sponsored by WWT Digital, the 2024 Top Women and Rising Star in  in Restaurant Technology awards  were presented at the 29th annual MURTEC conference in Las Vegas on March 13.  

Riva’s career at Pizza Factory started in 1990 as a franchisee. Then, in 2012, Riva and her husband Bob purchased the Oakhurst, Calif.-based company.

Striving for Seamless Integrations

Riva is passionate about guest interaction and “integration of programs and helping franchisees to grow but not at the cost of having to be a full-time technology expert.”

When it comes to the current technology landscape, Riva would like to see it applied to building community. 

“Technology is very focused on convenience, which is important. I would like to see technology also focus on the millions of people that desire in person, human contact, both at a service level and as a community,” she said. 

Maintaining Company Culture 

During the session Lessons and Insights from MURTEC Award Winners, at MURTEC 2024, Riva shared why company culture is so important to the Pizza Factory and how it is using technology to enhance it. 

The 114 Pizza Factory locations are destinations for guests to gather and share a meal. “The culture is apparent when you walk in the door – or should be,” explained Riva. “It’s not only at our corporate level, but also down to the franchisees, down to their teams and to the guest. … Our team works really hard at making sure our culture shines through.” 

Pizza Factory has added a technology that supports its company culture of giving back and supporting the local community: GiftAMeal. (GiftAMeal was named one of HT’s Industry Heroes in 2023 for its solution.) Here’s how it works: Pizza Factory has table tents with QR codes explaining the program. Guests take pictures of their food and post it on social media. Pizza Factory corporate donates one meal to the local food bank in that community. “It is a win-win. It’s a great reflection of what our culture is – which is about community, giving back and also allows our guest to feel good about coming in and also being able to participate in a program that is doing something for their community. It has been a really big win for us … And that is the fine line with culture. How do you maintain that culture in a world where technology is driving us to be less engaged.”

“Technology can be good, but it can also be a frustration on many levels. As a society, the more we step away from interaction and the experience of community, the more we promote exclusion and the ability to understand each other through human contact,” Riva added.

Riva is proud of what she and her team have accomplished. “Bringing the brand to where we are competitive with bigger brands in this space. At the same time, balancing our culture and maintaining who we are and have been for 40 years, is a focus. 

Riva says she is “very grateful for the recognition. The vision that came with the purchase of the company in 2012, came to fruition because of the team that I work with and the people we chose to bring in as partners.”   

About the Top Women Awards

After a call for nominations, Top Women in Restaurant Technology Award winners were chosen by Hospitality Technology magazine editors and members of its Research Advisory Board. The winners were announced and honored during an awards program, sponsored by WWT Digital,  on March 13 at the 29th annual MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference), in Las Vegas. HT will begin accepting nominations for the 2025 Top Women in Restaurant Technology Awards and 2025 Rising Stars in Restaurant Technology in mid-October.

About the Author


Anna Wolfe

Anna Wolfe is Hospitality Technology’s senior editor.  She has more than 15 years of experience as a B2B journalist writing about restaurants, retail and specialty food.

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